this is a story for my fiction class. the assignment was to write a story in three parts, in non-chronological order. one of the parts had to be a physical description, the other two autobiographical. i changed one of the names to protect the innocent.
i don't really like the way the second and third parts turned out. i like where they're going, but i think they need a bit more work. my ending especially needs revision. what do you think?
any questions? comments? suggestions? feedback?
thanks for reading!
We both sat looking down at the shining black fragments. She had arranged them back into their original circlet, but it was obvious that it would never be whole again. We were both amazed by its fragility. All it had taken was one sharp crack against the edge of the table, and the ring had flown into pieces.
Anna looked from the broken ring to me, eyes filling with tears. “I broke it,” she said. “It was the last thing I had left, and I just broke it.”
I wanted to comfort her. I picked up one of the tiny bits of hematite and examined it closely. It had looked sturdy before it shattered. Studying it now, I could hardly believe that someone had dared make a ring out of so breakable a material. If something is made to go on your hands, where it will endure hardships from all sides, it had better be made for something more than looking at. I did not say that, as it was far too late for such observations. I searched my head for a solution, but there truly was nothing to be done. Unfixable.
“I’m sorry,” is all I could say.
She took the chip of stone from my hand and placed it with great care back into the circle. She had found all the bits and pieced the ring back together with such diligence that looking at it there on the table, you’d never know that it had crumbled just moments earlier.
“Curtis gave me that ring just a week before he left,” Anna told me. I knew this already, as I had been on the school trip with them when the ring was bought, and had helped select the size. I knew every little detail of Anna and Curtis’ relationship from beginning to end, but I let her tell me anyway.
“I threw away all his shirts and letters and all that shit the day he broke up with me, but you know how you’ve got to hold on to that just one thing? This ring was that just one thing, and now I’ve broken it. I break everything that I touch.”
I sucked in my breath. I had spent the last month convincing Anna that the breakup hadn’t been her fault. I’d spent the last month trying to keep her from writing those letters, from making those expensive phone calls, from sending those useless packages. When someone wants freedom for the sake of freedom, nothing you offer them, except freedom itself, will make them happy. Nothing will make them stay. How was she to know that he had been planning to end the relationship for weeks before he left, and there was nothing she could have done to stop it? How was she to know that he had been convincing her that he would stay faithful to her during his semester in England, but had really planned to break up with her once he had gotten there so as to avoid a face-to-face confrontation?
I looked down at the ring again. Before it had broken, it had been seamless, fashioned out of a single piece of stone. Full circle. You would think forever would more durable. It broke so easily.
“There’s got to be some kind of glue or
something that will put it back together. What do you think? Do you think I can fix it?” Anna looked at me, her eyes glittering like the hematite slivers on the table in front of her.
I rubbed my empty wrists and looked at her for a long time. “No,” I said, “it’s broken for good.”
* * * * *
He was just woven together, really. Like a basket. He always wore linen or waffle shirts, worn so often that they felt impossibly soft to the touch. Maybe a flannel shirt over them, with their criss-crossing plaid patterns. Patchwork jeans that he’d sewn himself. His grandmother had taught him the stitch, and he’d altered every pair of his jeans with sudden bursts of red paisley from old sheets, green stripes from former dresses of his mother’s, multicolored plaid from flannel shirts worn too often even for him to keep wearing. Hemp was his adornment of choice. It is hard to imagine Chris without hemp necklaces; they were like the stitches that held him together. Beaded braids of it hung from his neck and wrists, enough to look like his head and hands would tumble off without them.
His hair was straw-colored and tangled. He managed it by lidding himself with a large felt hat. Inside you might find an ocarina, or a wooden pipe, or sometimes just his head.
Around school he’d shuffle about, taking up a little more than his share of space, due to the guitar case he always had slung over his shoulder. I should have known better than to date a musician. I’d sidle up next to him and tug on his tattered shirts. “Dirty hippie,” I’d say. He’d squint his light, light blue eyes at me. “I’m not a hippie,” he’d insist whenever anyone would brand him such. He’d take my hand anyway, wrapping his long, spindly fingers around mine. The skin on his knuckles was satin-soft, and I would rub my thumb over it, memorizing every knobby bone. His fingers wove into mine. I believed they would never unravel.
* * * * *
Friendship bracelets are the kind that you tie on to yourself with the understanding that it is to stay attached to you until it falls off. Usually they are made by the giver of the bracelet, commonly out of tiny knots of embroidery thread. They can be made out of other things too, like yarn, butcher’s string, or in my case, hemp.
Mine stayed with me, on my right wrist, through showers, swimming pools, long road trips around the country, even a trip halfway around the world to Japan. I could look at it and think of my woven straw boy that made it especially for me, who had found the hemp, bought the beads, sat down and weaved and knotted, thinking the whole time of me. Mine stayed encircling my wrist for years. It stayed so long that I stopped knowing that it would fall off. It was, after all, made of hemp. A strong material, known for sturdy ropes and fabrics. You could put all your trust in a material as strong as that.
When he told me in plain language I don’t love you anymore, my first thought was “my arms are falling off.” They hadn’t, though. They were still attached, with a ring of hemp still wrapped around one of my wrists.
Friendship bracelets come with the unspoken stipulation that when they break off, they’re off for good. Only fools try to tie back on what fate has decided should fall.
When the threads finally snapped, the beads didn’t clatter all over the place like I thought they would. They had been woven into the bracelet with far too much care. Only one, which had been located at the breaking point, slipped off and rolled beneath my couch. I never did find it.
When the threads finally snapped, it had already been three months since he’d said it. I would have removed the bracelet that day, but friendship bracelets are the kind that you tie on to yourself with the understanding that it is to stay attached to you until it falls off. I am the type to keep that sort of promise.
I picked up the broken bracelet and wrapped it around my wrist. It had been snug before it snapped. Any kind of knot to put it back together would have made it too tight. It wouldn’t have fit me anymore.
I didn’t know what to do with what was left of it. I ran my fingers down the length of it, lingering at the end. I tried to think of what had made it finally snap. I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary. I hadn’t been harsh, or unthinking, or uncaring. I had been acting as though everything was normal.
Hadn’t I even noticed the fraying threads? Had they been there the whole time? What could I possibly have done to stop it, to fix it?
The threads finally snapped. I could do nothing about it but realize that sometime even circles have endings.