Essay | The Ring by Tomoé Hill

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Tomoé Hill


The Ring


I still have my wedding ring – platinum with a pear-shaped, grass-green tourmaline, and small diamond baguettes flanking either side, facets refracting both light and superficial values. Sometimes I take the cursed object from its black octagonal leather box with the gold bird on the lid, wondering what illness it slowly introduced to me in the guise of joy. ‘Green stones are bad luck,’ said a friend of my then-fiancé, on admiring my ring. It was automatic; one of the givens of the world that I had never known. ‘I mean emeralds,’ she corrected herself in faint embarrassment.

Even as I laughed at her, I found myself thinking of Anthony and Gloria in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned – how Gloria insists on a platinum wedding ring set with emeralds; how we see from the start the hopelessness of the relationship; the light retreating, the darkness rising. ‘Life was being slashed into two periods … the face of the world was changing …’ What period do we choose to live in, what path to follow at the fateful crossroads of our future? It seemed to me that every time I looked into the tourmaline’s depths I knew the answer. Like Anthony and Gloria, two lovers married and yet apart, I, too, was living for a future that was nothing more than an imaginary past, those spectres of happiness that tantalise us like a mirage. What green hope lay in both our rings; what parched ground they became.

I can’t bring myself to give it away, as I don’t wish to gift or pass on something that represents such despair, despite knowing there are women every day who leave anonymous jewellery shops a few grams lighter. When one of my aunts divorced, her wedding ring had to be sawn from her finger. A particularly violent but satisfying severing of her relationship, it also marked the traumatic completion of another circle: her eldest son had recently died. Severed umbilical cords, lives. We cut to begin lives just as we cut to end them. This is the foresight of Atropos, the third Fate, known as the inflexible one. While her two sisters spin and measure out our lives, her shears cast their shadow at our first and final breath. She gave the halves of gold to me, and there are times I wonder if this was accidental rather than fated.

The other day, standing on the terrace of this house in Italy – where I travelled to escape the folly of an idea I have that one can flee the self as if it were an unwelcoming country – I had an overwhelming urge to take the ring and throw it as far as I could into the valley below: the valuable object rendered meaningless, nestled in the undergrowth; its metal and stone disenchanted and without context. I imagined it trampled underfoot by hunters, in the damp, mushroom-scented ground, or inadvertently swallowed by a wild boar, like an acorn, only to be found again in some strange life-death cycle: a thing of beauty within a beast, a story whose origins would never be known. I thought only then would it deserve to go back out among people – no longer with a traceable past, but with the hope of a new and undetermined future. 

Recently, I watched the hunters at the edge of the property calling to each other– their dogs barking, caught up in the frenzy. I thought again about the ring, its symbolism forgotten in the midst of the wildness, the men and their guns; of primal enjoyment, tradition. How, because of an ages-old agreement, they held the right to random entry, to violate.  At any time they could appear, in high blood, for their ritual. Even in the enlightened ritual of marriage such primal natures lie. Lie: meaning both an animal’s lair and a falsehood, rooted in the word for bed, the semantic tangling of sex and power. There are never any women, that I can see, in these hunting parties. And as I watched and listened, my heart leapt in my throat – I have no wish to participate in that kind of blood-sport, but I know I feel something similar when I desire.

 

***

It is now sometime later, and I have returned to London. It makes sense that this was the house I ended up living in during my brief travels. A converted hunting lodge built for the mistress of a local landowner long ago who demanded it. No whim but an exercise of power, the spoils of the hunt. Case sparse Monteporcili, named for the wild boars. The story goes that he built her this house so that he could stand on the edge of the property and look across the valley at his wife and children; his one eye on pleasure and the hunt, the other on respectability; a man straddling two worlds.

Today, hundreds of years later, the ghosts of the mistress’s unborn children are said to haunt the property. I think idly that if they do, they appear in the form of the deer that spring through the olive trees at dawn, or the boars that cause childlike havoc at night. The boars are able to sense the faults in the electric fence, hooking the dead spots onto bushes and low branches, racing into the gardens to root up the earth. At night I would lean out of the window to hear their snuffling and feel no fear (though I know some are enormous and dangerous), instead comforted by the routines of the wild. The huntsmen  surround the property during the day, as does the piss-reek of the animals – wild and domesticated – that marks the corners with its scent.

I made up my mind again to sell the ring, to get rid of it once and for all. I contacted a few online jewellers, none were interested. Even the jeweller the ring was originally purchased from, after asking for a photo and description, declined. Now it sits in its box, thrown in the back of a desk drawer. I fantasise about burying it in the Heath, throwing it in the Thames, leaving it somewhere – anywhere – else. The last jeweller I approached suggested having it remade into another piece, but the memories will stay with me whatever new shape it takes.

I picture the ring lying on the leaf-covered floor of the valley again, with boars and hounds and men running over it. Concentric, concentricus: with, together, centre. The hunters surround me, his words slouching in reminder: things fall apart, but the centre, the centre always holds.

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       Tomoé Hill’s writing can be found in Music & Literature, 3A.M. Magazine, Numéro Cinq, The Amorist, and Lapsus Lima, as well as in the anthologies We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books), Love Bites (Dostoyevsky Wannabe), and forthcoming in Trauma: Art as a response to mental health (Dodo Ink). Twitter: @CuriosoTheGreat


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