By Gayle Brandeis.
The first boy to give me a ring, at least part of one, was Timmy Murakami. He left an “I like you and I hope you like me” note in my third grade locker, a note that suggested we go for a walk by Lake Michigan together. Along with drawing little YES and NO squares for me to mark, he had folded the bottom left corner of the wide ruled notebook paper into a sharp triangle, and had tucked a little yellow plastic heart inside, clear and pale, like lemon candy. It looked like it had fallen off a ring, prismatic like a diamond, a bit of adhesive still on its back. I never replied to the note—too shy—but sometimes I would set the gem on top of my ring finger and feel a rush through my body I couldn’t quite name, an admixture of quease and thrill.
The first thing I ever stole was a Chicago Bears ring. I didn’t mean to steal it. I had tried it on in the gift shop at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, where my family often went for Sunday brunch, a lavish spread of ice sculptures and lox and tiny fussy desserts, live piano music accompanying the hiss of butter from the omelet station. My sister and I loved to go to the gift shop and look at the snow globes holding the Chicago skyline, the activity books that came with invisible ink pens, the bins of candy and playing cards, the Buckingham Fountain keychains. I forgot the ring was on my finger when we left the store to get another plate of tiny, fussy desserts, didn’t notice it until we were back at home and my shirt snagged on it as I changed into my pajamas. My heart started to hammer. It was an ugly ring, the Chicago Bears logo huge and garish. I hated football. It was not a ring I ever would have asked my parents to buy for me. I had no idea why I had even chosen to try it on. But here it was. I was a criminal. There must be some badness in me I hadn’t known I possessed. I felt guilty, but also slightly excited, maybe even a little proud—a good girl like me getting away with theft. I yanked the ring off my finger and hid it deep inside my underwear drawer, where only I could feel its shameful glow. Continue Reading…