Literary fiction is a lovely way to say things that are hard to say, tell things that are hard to tell, and impart the sense of something, or someone, that escapes words altogether. This is literary fiction. The bracelet is real. Much here is real. But much is fiction.
“I forget what a lovely thing you are! How my mother loved you,” I say this to myself, remembering this gift given to my mother on her sixteenth birthday. It was an exorbitant gift, this bracelet, alternately twined about in segments of spinach green and burnished gold.
In 1933 there wasn’t much money for necessities. Imagine how precious were bracelets. Duncan Robertson, though not a reader of books, was a reader of hearts. He wrapped his family round with the things that kept them truly warm. For my mother, this bracelet charmed her life until the end.
“What are you, exactly?” I wonder. “Bakelite?”
“You know that I am,” the bracelet seems to say. “For years, many years now, I have lain casketed in this drawer, no satin lining mine, surrounded by the detritus of time tossed in upon me—an old watch, a broken chain, an earring separated from its mate: we mourn: here in this dark place, we mourn: laid to rest, one at a time, waiting for who knows who, but remembering that once we were loved; once displayed circling a slender wrist, strung around a lovely soft neck to dip into a cleavage suspended, clasped onto a plump rounded lobe among tresses of tickly delight—but there was a time when I was cherished.”
“I see that you are cracked,” I observe.
“I am not cracked!” The bracelet is offended.
“That looks like a crack to me,” I say.
“I have one crack,” it says. “Think of it like a wrinkle. How many wrinkles do you have, old lady? I am much older than you, and I have only one crack. Hardly noticeable. You could put me on your wrist and no one would ever see the crack. If your wrist weren’t so fat!”
“My mother had a slender wrist, then?”
“Absolutely! She was not fat!”
“Still, she was only sixteen.”
“The perfect age for bracelets.”
“When did she stop wearing you?”
“Some things are better forgotten,” the bracelet says. “I have forgotten.”
“We have both forgotten things, haven’t we?” I say, meaning to comfort the bracelet.
“True,” it admits. “We have. And we both miss her, don’t we?”
“Well, I miss her,” I say. “I didn’t know you were missing her, too.”
“What else would I be doing? No one has rubbed a finger over me for a long time. Why don’t you try?”
“You’re very smooth. Someone has made you with care. You’re not a knock-off, are you?”
“Whatever do you mean? A knock-off?”
“A cheap imitation,” I say. “You’re not one of those. You were made carefully. Six separate pieces, each laid on the diagonal; carefully fitted together and rising and falling like valleys and hills.”
“Of course. Your mother was well-loved by her father. He would never give a cheap imitation.”
“You do know, of course, that my mother also loved cheap imitations.”
“Of course I know that! Don’t be stupid. How many years did I reside in her jewelry chest? Two less than seventy! Your mother simply loved jewelry.”
“Don’t go there.”
“The point is that her father loved good jewelry. He did not love imitations. Put me away, you silly woman! I think you’ve forgotten what it means to really live. I’m too old to bother with the likes of you.”
“My mother wouldn’t like to hear you say that,” I tell the bracelet.
“Bother! Your mother put me here didn’t she? Forgot about me. Left me to rot in a drawer.”
“Bracelet, I really doubt that’s true. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. My mother never forgot a single piece of jewelry. Every one was precious. I’m quite sure you were more precious than most. Likely you were the most precious of all.”
“Well, then, smarty. What are you going to do with me? Try to think of something better than putting me back in that drawer.”
A silence engulfs us, the bracelet and me; a silence with tendrils reaching back through generations, for that is how time is told–in generations: an emptiness emanates from the delicate touch of my finger on the bracelet, stroking, barely touching, touching nevertheless a corporeal memory seeped into the helix of old gold and green Bakelite; I trust that memory lives on in a well-loved thing. More than a trinket. Much more.
Trinkets forget themselves in memory and are lost to time. Trinkets find themselves tossed out onto a heap to be trunked off to the thrift store or the dump. Trinkets tug no memories from the living when they cease to play their small role in the life of the beloved, now dead.
“I am no trinket.” The bracelet divines my thoughts.
“I wasn’t thinking that you were,” I say.
“You were considering the possibility,” the bracelet tells me. “Thinking there was no better place for me in this life of yours than to toss me out.”
“You said you didn’t want to go back into the drawer,” I remind the bracelet. “Remember? And I understood that you didn’t like the forgotten darkness.”
“I was angry. Even bracelets say things they don’t mean when they’re angry. I didn’t mean I wanted to be thrown away to rot in a garbage heap or in someone else’s dark drawer; some drawer where no one even knows what I have been.”
“You still are, you know?” I remind it. “Still are a bracelet.”
“Much more than that!”
The bracelet is hot with resentment at the thought that it means so little to me. Still, that is the truth. We share few memories and no love for one another larger than the memory of my mother.
“You prefer to go back into this drawer, then?”
There was no answer. I wait, thinking to give the bracelet time to find its voice; imagining what a bracelet might prefer; knowing something of what it means to be shuffled from one drawer to another—in a metaphorical sense; and intuiting the inevitability of it: what is life really, but finding oneself tucked away in the dark waiting for the next time the drawer will open?
When I think the bracelet has nothing more to say, has left the choice up to me, I open the drawer and reach to put the bracelet back, thinking to find it a resting place more appropriate to its status; a place of its own without the inadvertent poking of a sharp brooch or the strangling loop of some out-of-control necklace.
Had I but thought a moment—what bracelet, after all, talks; and when it talks, speaks of memories, shares a sadness from a place seeped deep into its bones –I would have had a caution. But since I wasn’t cautious, I suddenly find myself inside the drawer with the bracelet, just a specter there, seeing the drawer from the dark inside.
“How do you like it in here,” the bracelet smirks.
In all truth, I don’t know. It is a dark place, claustrophobic; a smothery sepulcher for the discarded remnants of lives.
“The top drawer!” the bracelet chortles. “You see the irony in that? The top drawer!”
“Oh, stop it.”
That voice wasn’t mine! I’m not the only specter in this drawer! It’s a voice I know well.
“Mother?” I venture to say.
“You finally came. I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve missed you.”
“Well, you’re going to have to wait a little longer!” I am appalled at the thought that my mother wants me dead!
“You’ve missed me,” my mother says. It is a statement, not a question. My mother knows I miss her. “I’ve missed you, too. Don’t you think it’s about time to come with me?”
“Why would she want to spend eternity in a drawer?” The bracelet speaks before I gather my wits. “Think about it. She wouldn’t even want to visit us here. When has she ever thought much about bracelets or rings or any of the foo-foo trappings you love?”
“For a bracelet you’re hard,” I say. “Mean. Why can’t you be nice?”
“Nice!” the bracelet hisses. “Why should I be nice? I’m tossed in here and forgotten. My time for nice expired a long time ago.”
“I’d wear you if I could,” my mother soothes. “I still love you.”
It was true. I could feel my mother’s love engulfing me, reaching back into a life she no longer lives, back through a generation of lives, of loves; a life of substantial meaning placed in special things—like this bracelet; a life where the love of things outlives the love of persons: people disappear: people go so far away they can never again be touched. People live on only in the remainders left behind.
Before my mind returns from the drawer from its wandering backward path, my mother is gone. She’s left me here this time. Left me wondering about the love of mothers for bracelets and daughters.
“I suppose there is a message,” I say, expecting the bracelet, at least, to have something to say about that.
The bracelet isn’t talking.
“Not the drawer, then,” I mutter, placing the bracelet on the bedspread. “I’ll think of something else. But you have to remember, bracelet, that I’m not my mother. I don’t wear jewelry often. And it’s been years since I’ve worn a bracelet.”
“Your wrist is too fat, old lady. Don’t even try it.”
The bracelet is speaking after all.
“Tired of safe,” the bracelet continues.
“I don’t want you ruined.” I consider the possibilities. “Eventually, I’ll answer to my mother.”
“She cracked me. Remember that.”
“How did that happen?” I ask.
“I was rolling over and over and over, having the very best time!” The bracelet was animated.
“But what was my mother doing?”
“How should I know! Ask her! What I was doing was rolling over and over and over . . .”
“Just the same, I don’t want you ruined.”
“What’s to ruin? I’m Bakelite. Almost indestructible.”
“I imagine you would fade if I left you on a windowsill in the sun, or scratched if you were shuffled around, even cracked again if you were to drop. Aren’t you getting a bit brittle?” I ask.
“Think about it, old lady.” The bracelet speaks, resolute now. “No matter how safe you keep me, there is no forever. Even for bracelets.”
It is at just that moment that the cat comes into the room. The inquisitive kitty, seeing the bracelet on the bed, goes to investigate. Just a moment ago, I would have no no-ed the kitty. Now I understand that this is a bracelet longing for escapades. Starving for the lack of living! I leave the cat to sniff and paw until the bracelet flies off the bed, lands to take off rolling over the carpet, wings out the door tickety-tacking on the linoleum in the next room, and is away out of sight with the cat racing after.
“Whooeee!” the bracelet cries out: perhaps its final apostrophe.
M L Spaulding Baisch © 2015