Saturday, April 14


At the age of thirty-two years, I am firmly entrenched – subconsciously, as I catch myself – in the act of noticing wedding rings. Those metal rings cluttering my field-of-view! The greatest tragedy of all is my own penchant for the ring finger. It is the best finger of all, objectively. It is subtle, neither used to point or offend, it simply pokes out from the hand with the asymmetrical elegance of a primary feather, ignored by many, appreciated by few. Maybe if I did not play guitar then it, too, would have slipped beneath my attention, but the ring finger (on either hand, I speak in generalities) is essential. The ring finger achieves naturally a tone on the fretboard: the fifth, the octave, the sustained-fourth. Folk use it to determine the amount of oestrogen one was exposed to during gestation, and so the ring finger (for a man) becomes a reminder of the womb, of motherly cosiness and that luxury of never having to even chew your own food.
Wedding rings are strange things. My friend wears one, although he is not married. A DJ I spoke to told me she just wears it to keep men away. Some married men I know do not wear one but expect their wives to. The first time I saw my brother wearing a wedding ring (the morning after the ceremony), I thought—O, he’s a man now. This is it.
My father was swimming in the ocean once and his wedding ring worked itself loose and sunk to the bottom, among the rocks. A very kind lady swum down and retrieved it for him, to his utter disbelief, and now there is a photograph of her in my parents’ kitchen. When I was ill as a child, my mother (left-handed) would rub hot Vicks into my chest and I would stare at the ceiling, feeling her wedding ring hot from the candle and strong from the Vicks.
Now I am thirty-two and I notice wedding rings.
That is my pastime. It is a commentary on my existence, a belittling of failings and escapes. Weddings rings.
(After She broke up with me She said—‘If you’d asked me to marry you, I would’ve said yes.’ It ruined me, which is what I think She intended, but I cannot know. One is always unsure when it comes to former lovers.)
So I see weddings rings on the fingers of strangers and I wonder about myself. It is enough to walk around this ghastly city alone with all the couples holding hands here & there, because I feel a tremendous sense of inadequacy, a cry of—Why not me? I turn away from the couples, downward, hanging my head, almost performing a bow. I give way to them; I imagine how they met and what they find funny, what they have in common, I wonder how they fuck, I wonder how long they have been together, I wonder how much longer?
Most of all I wonder—
What does he have that I do not?
One cannot help such thoughts. I am no beast! I am subject to logic and thought, to reason, and so I question—What does he have that I do not? Carefully I slow my pace and I watch this couple walking hand in hand, conversing, followed by the bright, blue smothered sunshine that April is giving us, and I consider the couple. His skull is slim and his hair well coiffured; his jacket is kind of shiny, ugly in its fashion; she is blonde and her bottom is, from my position behind and a coffee cup away, magnificent. For a quarter mile I walk behind them, becoming toxically jealous, then I move on, overtaking them.
It would be good to be in love (again). Part of me – a large part, including the marrow and wrists – would feel better for it. It would be as though I had finally been accepted into the club, and that my life, all this nonsense, was going in the right direction. I could plan the music at my wedding (expensive excuse for a party) and revel in the fact I had a best friend (again) and someone to give portions of my life to.
‘Sorry, mate.’
‘That’s okay.’ He’d been sweeping up. ‘Cappuccino, please.’
I stood there waiting, checking the football scores. A couple came in. I scowled. I took the coffee and went on walking through the streets without any particular route in mind, because it was just fine to walk in the good weather. The walk went on for miles and I felt my legs becoming tired. The sun was so glorious but it was making me sweat. Everyone looked happy. It was indeed a beautiful day. On the way home I stopped at the shop and bought some beer and prawns. I thought of the nightmares I had during sleep, shuddering. My legs were tired, my nerves shot. My favourite stretches of pavement were uninterrupted by couples, only other lonely men or women walking past, folk I wanted to stop and say hello to, but I barely looked up, I barely smiled.

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