The Ring

Perhaps, because I have just been thinking about turning my savings into jewelry I can wear, this happens.

At the Southeast corner of the Louvre, on the Rue de Rivoli, a woman bends over near me as I cross the street and pulls a gold ring out of the blond dirt. She says, Mister, Mister, Mister, and holds up the gold ring. Is this yours?

She is a short, dark-haired and stocky older woman, and her hair is long and bound loosely at the middle of her back. She seems kind as she holds the ring out to me.

It’s a strange kind of men’s ring. It bulges thickly so that if it were on your hand, it would keep the fingers to either side apart. It says 18k on the inside, and it looks gold.

No, I say, and pass it back to her, though I knew instantly it wasn’t mine. 

No, she says, and hands it back to me. You should keep it, for good luck.

Okay, I say. Thanks.

Can you give me something for it, she says. I raise my left eyebrow, because, well, I did try to give it to her and she gave it back. I hand it back towards her.

Something for a sandwich, she asks me, not looking at the ring. I did find it, she adds, as if I’d forgot.

I hand her 3 Euros. And a soda, she asks. I give her 3 more. Thank you, she says. And she leaves.

I hold the ring up. It looks oddly like the ring from the Lord of the Rings films. A plain gold band. I try to put it on my hand. It doesn’t fit. I wonder if there are pawnshops in Paris. If that’s why she didn’t want to take the ring. But underlying it is the sense that this is a scam, like the guy on the streets of the East Village who would tell you he needed 20 dollars to get a cab uptown to his production studio where there were keys for him to get his props from out of this West Village apartment foyer, he just needed the 20 bucks, did you have it? He’d meet you there with the money. In my first days in New York, I gave it to him and said, Good luck. The second time he met up with me, with the same story, I let him tell it, and then I said, I’ve been through this with you before, and he recoiled and swore at me. I eventually learned he was one of the Village’s most notorious homeless heroine addicts.

I pocket the ring, and hope it isn’t famous, even though I’m pretty sure it is. I’m pretty used to being mistaken for a French speaker, for example, and she didn’t hesitate to address me in English. Which means she read me as American, and chose me for that.

My luck changes for the worse. I arrive too late for a show at the decorative arts. I turn my ankle, strain my wrist, and blisters cover my heels.

That evening, when I tell two friends who live here in Paris about the story, one says, Oh. That’s the…well, I don’t want to say Gypsy, but, basically, the Gypsy ring swindle. Did she find it right near your feet?

And then she gave it to you, for good luck?

And then she asked for something for having done this?

I gave her 6 Euros, I tell her. Deciding that the whole story is worth 6 Euros. I feel sad at the idea that this is something someone does all day, every day.

I turn it in my hand. It looks like the ring from the Lord of the Rings, I say. It doesn’t fit on my hands. I imagine taking it home, having it appraised. Maybe it is full of lead. Maybe it is real gold. The woman I spoke to didn’t look to me like a Gypsy. I somehow end with the feeling that the ring doesn’t belong to me, after all of that. I still don’t want it, even if I could melt it down and make a coin.

When I leave Paris, I lean out the window of the apartment I’ve rented in the 1st, and leave it on the far right spike that keeps the pigeons from landing there. Where no one can have it.

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6 thoughts on “The Ring

  1. koreanish says:

    Tony: I didn’t, because for most of our exchange I believed she had made an honest mistake thinking it was mine. But I still have it, all the same.

    Lenore: Did I mention the time I moved back into NYC from Brooklyn, to open the Times and read “NYC is the new Brooklyn”?

    I am the zeitgeist, basically.

  2. Davide says:

    I love the elegiac take on the common scam. It reminds me of at the end of the film of Portrait of a Lady, the protagonists gestural yet aimless reach for the doorknob while turning.

    (Kisses.)

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