A guy hit on me today.
“That corn’s a deal,” he said to me over the bin at Walmart, his eyes twinkling and searching for mine. A toothpick dangled precariously from his lower lip, but he possessed “TV doctor” good looks. We were shucking ears that were indeed a great deal, and I guess the corn bucket at Walmart is as good a place as any to meet someone new.
Before you start thinking that I must be one hot commodity, let me mention I was in sweats — not in designer brand, good-looking I-just-refreshed-my makeup-but-never-actually-work-out sweats, but real ones. You know, the kind that say, “I’m comfortable just the way I am and maybe skipped the shower this morning.” But still, he looked at me like I was naked, and I actually was — at least, where it really counts in this kind of encounter.
See, even though Mr. TV Doctor had a trained eye for good value on produce — a quality I admire in a man — I’m committed to shucking ears for someone else. During chemo, everything swelled, and now my ring finger — the one between pinky and middle — goes naked. I don’t wear my wedding ring anymore.
I slipped it off just before my hand got so swollen that the local fire station would have had to use the Jaws of Life to pry it from a bulbous, clown-like finger. My sparkler languished on my nightstand for weeks, swallowed by the sea of prescription medicines, glasses of flat ginger ale, and books I thought I’d have the energy to read.
When chemo finished, I assumed my swelling would abate. “Maybe after surgery,” my husband said. Then, “maybe after radiation.” Then, “just give it a year.”
Now, it’s been so long since I’ve worn my ring that I don’t think about it much anymore. Until a guy gives me that look, the look that begs for sweet romance, bargain prices on vegetables, and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck.
When I tell my husband about these encounters, he laughs. “You should have let the guy buy our groceries.” Our daughter giggles.
“You could at least pretend to feel threatened,” I retort. “One of these corn shuckers might just light my fire. Then you’ll be stuck doing your own grocery shopping.”
My husband and I met over 20 years ago on an airplane and have been glued together ever since. Shortly after we met, I quit my job, moved across the country, and married that guy. It’s been an adventure ever since.
We saw the ring one Saturday at a small shop in Sonoma in a glass case by the register with other old estate jewelry. Yes, it was “used,” worn by another woman during another life. It was old and unique and looked like it had stories to tell. My husband went back the next day and bought it. He didn’t know the size, grade, color, but he knew it was the right one.
As a married woman, it feels weird sometimes to have that naked finger. And now that we’ve moved to the tony Palm Springs area in Southern California, I see some women sporting toilet stoppers the size of the Maltese diamond on their left hands and wonder if I should get my own ring stretched.
“Do it!” girlfriends urge.
I’ll do it. One day, when the time is right.
Until then, I’ll keep in mind that marriage has nothing to do with a ring or its size and shape. For me, it’s about the guy I met on an airplane who changed the course of my life. He can mimic my mannerisms with exasperating precision, tells me I’m beautiful even when I haven’t had a shower and laughs at my jokes when they’re not even funny at all.
Gary’s the guy who’s seen me at my best and at my rock-bottom worst. He’s been there through good hair days and no hair days. He got me through cancer.
After he bought that ring, he hid it in a box under the seat of our work truck and waited to pop the question — which took him a while, I might add. It’s a beauty, but as all couples know, it’s not the sparkler on my finger that makes my marriage, it’s the sparkler in my heart.
I gave Dr. Good Looking, MD, at the corn bin a smile. Then silently, I offered a prayer that he finds his perfect match and used my naked hands to push my cart to the checkout. Another glorious day, another chance for a new beginning.
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