Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It had perfect cut and clarity: this soon to be mine 1.01 carat, F color VVS1 Emerald cut diamond.

I didn’t shop for it with my fiance, a close friend of mine had spied it while shopping for her third engagement ring upgrade at her fancy 47th Street diamond dealer, a guy who sold diamonds to celebrities for their spouses and secret girlfriends. Corey was in his usual perfectly pressed Italian custom-made suit admiring what he considered to be a very special stone. It was small compared to what he was hocking here and at his Vegas location, where 4 carat diamonds were considered “average”. The stone he was admiring was just over one carat, the cut, the beauty was exceptional, he showed my friend the small stone between his jeweler’s tweezers, she knew how to hold the jeweler’s loop, pressed against the eye, drawing the diamond back and forth until it came into focus.

I was coming back from a client meeting on the Amtrak when I got her message – I called my home phone to get my messages from the train’s platform. She had found my diamond, she said, and I should drop everything before it was sold. I called my boyfriend at his not-for-profit job, a group home manager for mentally disabled men, he had just broken up two of the men who were helping each other get off in a closet and was looking forward to five o'clock and heading into his Karate class in the city. “Get it if you want it,” I heard him shrug. He had proposed to me a week ago after a talk we had one night. His sister had gotten engaged after seeing her boyfriend for only a month. Dave and I had been together for three years, I wanted kids and a Honda Accord, it wasn’t an ultimatum, but I made my plans clear, with or without him. Dave went into the bathroom and shut the door – this is where he would go to escape in our studio apartment, to masturbate, I suspected, to talk to his mom on Sundays, and to vomit, I thought that was a possibility given our conversation and how abrupt his escape. After about 20 minutes he emerged, got down on one knee and said, “Honey, if this is what you want, than let’s just do it.” It wasn’t the proposal I’d imagined, my boyfriend from college who turned out to be gay had asked me, and had done a much better job, just like in the movies. I held my response with Dave’s resigned proposal, “I thought this is what the fuck you wanted.” I couldn’t argue that fact; we had a deal.

We went to Indiana two weeks later to share the news with his family. They were unassuming folks who lived in a house his dad had built out of bricks with his own two hands. They had a well that supplied water to the house, chickens that they used for eggs and poultry, and an impressive vegetable garden on one side of the house. Dave’s mom worked as a part time Postal employee, his Dad worked at a factory for Ford. One day, his Dad took me fishing at a bridge near their house and told me a story about a fancy girlfriend he had once, he knew it would never work and though he loved her, he sent her back on the next plane to Los Angeles and married a girl from town – Dave’s more simple mom. He seemed to adore her in spite of the fact that she wore elastic waistband pants and didn’t have the vanity to deal with a pretty impressive growth of downy facial hair where a man's beard would be. I thought his anecdote was odd, he seemed to be quite fond of me – I couldn’t believe that he would be comparing me to this fancy L.A. girlfriend who he’d banished to the left coast. But the fact was, I was having a hard time in Indiana, I would get a knock on the bathroom door if I took too long and used up too much water in the shower, having to get out before I’d had sufficient time to let my conditioner sink in. One evening I politely refused some Chinese food that had been in the ice box for over the week, saying I wasn't hungry, I was sure it had passed it’s prime – but my refusal had branded me a city slicker. And although his Dad continued to exhibit a crush on me, sitting in the dark, waiting for me to wake up and pad into the kitchen so he could prepare me a breakfast of fresh eggs from the chicken house with the mushrooms he’d unearthed from the woods behind the house. It seemed I had rekindled the spark of the fancy L.A. girlfriend, but soon I would suffer a similar fate and be sent back to the city from whence I came.

That afternoon we all squeezed into the truck and headed off to Costco, I had never been. They had giant jars of pickles and red cocktail cherries, and a counter full of diamond rings for people fixing to get married. I contemplated catching up with Dave and his parents who were now lost somewhere among the long fluorescent lit aisles. I imagined Dave was looking at the discounted electronics, eyeing a bigger TV, and I was hoping that his parents were shopping for some new food for dinner. How could I lure them to the place where the diamonds were kept? I had looked at Dave’s mom’s hand, she had a simple worn band that was now a couple sizes too small. She wasn’t much for finery, although one afternoon she had taken me into town to Macy’s where she pointed out some items she liked at their jewelry counter and more than hinted that it would be OK if I used my American Express card to honor her birthday which was only 2 and a half months away.

On the way out of Costco I pulled Dave aside and showed him the ring, his eyes glazed over but found some enthusiasm when he explained the plans for the afternoon: he would be going fishing, and I could watch some TV at home, even the color one that his parent’s kept safe in their bedroom.

“Get it if you want it,” now back in New York, Dave's words echoed in my head as I headed towards the bank, his approval rank with resentment. Dave would get onboard once he saw the stone. I withdrew the money, got to 47th street just before closing time, took one look at the diamond and fell in love. “Let me see this thing I’m buying,” Dave said with mild curiosity when I got home, he thought it was pretty but smaller than he’d imagined for the money. He wrote down the full amount I’d paid on a piece of paper that he attached to our refrigerator, went to his coffee can that doubled as his saving’s account, counted out 200 dollars in twenties and handed them over to me, wrote minus 200 dollars on the paper with the new balance underneath, switched on the TV to watch another Seinfeld episode and called Dominoes. I took the stone from its pouch, carefully unfolding the special white paper that cradled it. Now it was official, the stone made it so – but instead of making things better; it was making things worse. Dave still seem uninspired, he hadn’t withdrawn into the bathroom, but spent the rest of the evening rearranging his collection of action figures in what he deemed his corner of the apartment. A week later, I told him I wanted to break up for good.

He begged me not to, suddenly losing his interest in the back-to-back Seinfeld episodes. He dropped down on both knees, offering to buy me the top of the line European vacuum cleaner I had been eyeing at our local yuppie electronics boutique if only I would take the breakup back; the coffee can savings account had been dwindling as he marked off the seventy-five dollar payments he was making on our refrigerator tab, his offer to pony up for the pearlised vacuum cleaner broke my heart. I decided to give things another shot, I now hated that stupid diamond I had put so much stock in, and now I felt guilty about ever mentioning that fancy vacuum cleaner, it had diminished the times when Dave had chipped in with the cleaning, and swept the floor with such earnest.

Beyond his offer to gift me the glossy vacuum, Dave was willing to try anything to save our relationship – he had gotten the name of a couple’s counselor in Park Slope from a friend who’s marriage had been saved in spite of myriad infidelities. From the start it didn’t go well, she was awkward with us, apparently fairly green in the therapy field. We had heard from the woman who recommended her that she now heard that the therapist’s own marriage was precarious at best. “Mrs. McCloud” (we were not to use her first name) showed favoritism towards me, confiding in me when Dave would frequently escape to the restroom that she had a crush on me, and was looking at it in her own sessions with her shrink. Dave would sink even deeper into the old futon she had us sit on as she would berate him for choosing a career in non-profit, how did he expect to raise a family in Brooklyn Heights on such a salary! Oddly, for the first time Dave and I were on the same side of something, we fired her. I went off to Florida for a family reunion that weekend and when I came back Dave was gone. All his clothes, collectible figures, his broom – all gone. At first I thought he’d left a note on the refrigerator, but it was only the piece of paper with the scratched off coffee can payments for my engagement ring.

I ran into Dave about a year ago, I heard he had gotten married a few years back. He was alone standing next to a stroller that looked dingy, as though it had been snatched from a dumpster. His wife was inside with their infant, he wanted me to wait and see his new son. I wondered how you could put a child in that contraption; surely they could afford a new one at K-mart or Walmart, or a store like that. Dave had gone to law school, and was now an advocate for the mentally disabled, he had to be making more than in the old days when he was breaking up sexually charged trysts between the mentally disabled men in the kitchen pantry or wherever they could hide. Still, he looked happy, and I was happy for him.

I just happened to be wearing a jacket that day that Dave had given me, a Carhartt jacket like the ones construction guys wear, it was fun mixing this kind of gear with my 300 dollar boots and diamond studs from Tiffany. I took a pass on waiting for his wife and child, I thought it might be weird for her, and for me. “Nice jacket,” he called after me, as I headed back to the building where we had lived, I had since moved up to the penthouse apartment that I shared with my cute little dog.

I had the diamond reset at a fancy jeweler in Soho a few years ago, and wore it on and off for a year. The ring got a slew of compliments; the man behind the counter at Tiffany commented on the stone’s clarity and cut. But the diamond had lost its value, no matter how much it was now worth, no matter how many compliments I got. I had bought into the “Diamond Are Forever” hoax, and believed in the superior cleaning abilities of the pearlised vacuum at the fancy shop, the Honda Accord had left me at the corner, I’d lost my reverence for all those things. Still, I catch myself ogling that shiny white Italian scooter; no one changes over night. But the time has come to sell the diamond, maybe even pay Dave back the 400 bucks he paid for his part. Heck, he could buy a brand new stroller, and me, I’d have more than enough left over to buy a “better” bike.