I discovered Dawn Raffel through her stories in The Brooklyn Rail. But then I heard her read at The Brooklyn Rail anniversary reading and that sealed the deal. Here is a piece from her memoir in vignettes, The Secret Life of Objects. She has a short story collection Further Adventures in the Restless Universe (see the amazing book video at the bottom of the post) just out with Dzanc Books earlier this year, and she is also the author of Carrying the Body and In the Year of Long Division. It’s a pleasure to be able to present her work to NC readers.
(The photo was taken by Bill Hayward, part of his Bad Behavior project. Coincidentally, Bill took the author photo for my novel The Life and Times of Captain N. The Bad Behavior project, as I understand it, consisted of giving subjects—artists of various sorts all—a huge sheet of backdrop paper and a bucket of black paint and letting them act out. The results were/are amazing. See above. See some of the photos on his web site, or buy the book. Hell, buy everyone’s book! It’s Christmas.)
from The Secret Life of Objects
(A Memoir in Vignettes)
By Dawn Raffel
The Moonstone Ring
My future husband bought the ring in India in 1981 with the idea that he would give it to the woman he married. Besides, he said, when he presented me with the ring in 1984, it was only $15. The ring is silver with a moonstone flanked by blue gems. It was not my engagement ring—that was a quarter-carat perfect diamond. Anyway, the moonstone ring was too large. My fingers at the time were a child-sized four.
I took the ring to be sized. During the three days it was at the jeweler’s, the 400-square foot apartment my future husband and I had just bought together in Chelsea was burglarized, and my jewelry, including the few pieces I owned that had belonged to my grandmother, was stolen. All I had left was my engagement ring, which was on my hand, and the moonstone ring in the shop.
In a few months, I also had a wedding band, and over the years my husband bought me jewelry, in part to make up for what I had lost. I rarely wore the moonstone—even properly sized, it seemed too big, too serious. Years went by; we moved from one apartment to another and out of Manhattan and had children. The diamond fell out of my engagement ring, never to be found, though the kids had a field day looking for it, pulling the cushions off furniture, sifting through the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag. I took off that ring with its empty prongs and thought about wearing the moonstone in its stead but by now, my knuckles had thickened and the ring was too small. So I returned it to the jeweler to be made bigger, only to be told it could not be sized again without destroying it.
The ring sat in my top drawer for more than a decade. During this time, a man in our small town opened a jewelry booth inside the liquor and soda store across from the takeout pizza joint, and I would occasionally browse while I waited for the kids’ slices to heat. One day I was looking at a pair of earrings when someone dropped off a ring to be sized. “Do you do that?” I said. “Sometimes,” he said. I brought in the moonstone-and-blue-gem ring and he looked at it and said he thought he could enlarge it, despite what the more established jeweler had told me. Sure enough, he did.
So now, 29 years after my husband brought the ring from India, I wear it next to my wedding band. Those sapphires, the jeweler said, with some surprise, are real. The band slides over my knuckle and the ring fits fine.
See another excerpt in The Brooklyn Rail.