I remember the week after Ring Day,
sitting in algebra class, I asked to see her ring—
that girl I was friends with—
obese, acne polluting
the skin of her beautiful, round face.
I took her large, thick band in my
hands and turned it over—
I remember the inside read: BAL10K
the inscription seemed larger than
the one inside my ring, maybe the words
magnified with the size of the ring itself.
My own ring was inscribed with BAL 14K,
my mother insisted I choose the most
expensive option, the ring made of fourteen karat gold.
I remember her coming home from work, tired
and sorting through the mail like she always did-
I was in my room working and was waiting
for her to see the letter—
I had been expecting its arrival and knew exactly
what it was when I saw the blue seal on the envelope
that afternoon when I came home from school.
My mother had been talking for months about my ring day
and I wanted to see the expression on her face when she
realized it was nearly here.
First she showed the letter to my grandmother,
who came upstairs a little later to deliver my plaid uniform skirt,
freshly ironed and held onto a wire and paper dry cleaners’
hanger by two small safety pins.
My grandmother took off her glasses and put one of the tips into her mouth
as she read the letter, squinting her eyes slightly and smiling when
she realized what it was.
Then she gave me a kiss,
and the next morning I found her signed check on the countertop
for me to take to school.
Looking at this girl’s ring, all I could think of were
her parents, sitting in their expensive kitchen,
staring at that sheet of paper
while she was upstairs alone before dinner:
her mother slipping a blunt letter opener between the seal of the envelope
and pulling out the clean, white letter
with the jeweler company’s title at the top.
Each letter to the junior class’s parents was supplemented by
a cover letter from the head of our school,
describing the history and significance of Junior Ring Day and the
rite of passage it served for the girls.
The next piece of paper was a page full of ring options,
a variety of choices that would accommodate the small
economic diversity of our school.
At the top were the highest quality and clearly the most popular BAL 14K, the 14-karat white gold ring,
followed by the BAL10K ten karat alternative,
then yellow gold,
and then, finally at the end of the list was the sorrowful
choice for the most cost-conscious families-
made of some substance whose name I can’t recall now.
While the expensive rings ranged from 450 dollars to 300,
The last choice was somewhere in the market of just above one hundred.
“Get the fourteen karat one,” my mother said,
writing the amount in her checkbook registry
before calculating the difference,
shaking her head like it was obvious, clear that I
would get the most expensive ring despite
its cost that took away nearly half her available balance.
The thought that haunted me was that the girl’s mother
entered the house, locking her brand new Audi,
and opened that letter– placing the letter opener down on
her granite countertop—
She saw that sheet,
recalling for too short a moment her own days spent in Catholic School,
turning the worn, gold ring on her right manicured ring finger around in remembrance,
Knowing that the 14 karat ring was the best choice, the one
that all the other girls would be wearing,
she decided, in that split second before even lifting her eyes from the page,
second best was good enough for her daughter,
She decided, willingly, that she
didn’t deserve the best.
Categories: Original Poetry