The Man with the White Porcelain Ring

What was in your dreams last night?


Mine? So glad you asked—as if you’d ever ask, you with your white porcelain wedding ring, you sitting there trying to sell me medical insurance when you know I’m full of fear and likely to die within a year or two. You. You with your briefcase and those Dockers that still drive me wild, you with that bald head that reminds me of a thumb—of my Carl’s thumb that got a little black and blue toward the end when the cataracts got so bad he’d whack that thumb more often than the head of a nail. But he never moaned, never even winced. My Carl would just look at his thumb and the blood and the nail hanging half off and say, “Well now, will you look at that?”


Bet you’d cry. Bet you’d stick that thumb right in your mouth like a little baby and dance a little jig. You a man? I wonder if you’re even a man, I really do. What man wears a white porcelain ring, that’s what I’d like to know. And for a wedding ring. Don’t tell me your wife has a matching—oh, of course she does. You two make a real pair.


See this ring? Take a good look at a diamond, young fella, a real diamond that a real man like my Carl gave to his lady back in the day. This diamond can cut glass, that’s how real it is. Like to try it out on that porcelain ring of yours, slice it in two easy as butter on a hot day. Porcelain? You and the missus walking the earth with a pair of white porcelain wedding rings. Thought I’d seen it all. Tell me, you Chinese or something? You don’t look Chinese but how else to explain that porcelain. What’d that run you, ten bucks down in Chinatown? My Carl paid a bundle for this diamond but he said there’s no price to put on love. Those were his exact words: “Betty, it’ll take me a long time to pay off that ring but believe you me, there’s no price to put on love.”


Guess you put a price on your love: ten bucks. What, she do the same, decide to skip a cup of coffee that morning and put that money toward a porcelain ring?


That’s what I just don’t understand about you kids these days. Divorce. You know when you’re getting married that it’s just temporary, that it’s just a fling. Why buy a diamond for a fling? Guess it all makes sense to me now, ten bucks for this year’s hussy, another ten for next year’s. Oh get a hold a your britches, young fella, I’ll call her a hussy if I want to call her a hussy, that’s the privilege that comes when you turn 84 years old. That’s right, 84 on July 4, the country and Betty celebrating on the same day. My momma used to take me to the fireworks show on the lake back in Illinois and tell me they were for me, the whole sky lit up with color just for me. I believed her. I still believe her, and you can wipe that smirk off your face, young man, before I stuff that cheap-ass ring—excuse my French—right down your throat and watch you gag. That’d make my day, seeing your eyes bulge.


You were asking about my dreams last night. Point of fact I did have a dream. What’s your name again, sonny? Trevor? What kind of name is Trevor? No one named Trevor back in the day when men were men with names like Carl and Hank and Duke. No Trevors back in the day, that’s a fairy name, which I suppose explains a lot about you. That ring, that bald head of yours, above all this job if you can really call it a job. More like selling snake oil. Good thing my Carl is long dead or he’d pick you up with his mangled thumbs and toss you into those bushes like the sack of manure you are. Oh sit down, sit down… Trevor. You got nowhere to go and don’t be such a baby. What, you afraid of a little old lady like me? Did I tell you I’m 84? Did I tell you my birthday’s on July 4th just like the greatest country on earth?


This is what I want to know. When you go home at night to your mobile home or wherever you live, what do you and your Chinese wife-for-a-year talk about? Do you hold hands, your cheap white ring clattering across her cheap white ring, a hollow sound that says all that needs to be said about the two of you—dark and empty as a well. Don’t get me started on wells, I fell in one back there in Illinois when I reached in for the reflection of the moon. Do you tell your Chink wife—oh, well excuse me for not being all proper, what is she, Asian-American? Oh dear lawd you and Ling Ling or whatever her name is must make a pair, the two of you at home eating noodles yet again—noodles noodles noodles, night after night, am I right? Goddamn straight I’m right.


I want to know, Trevor. Oh it just tickles me to say that fairy name: Trevor. It sure is a fairy name, Trevor, whether you think so or not, Trevor. Oh no I’m not going to stop: Trevor Trevor Trevor.


Trevor and Ling Ling, what a pair. Now tell me, what do you talk about over noodles at night? Do you tell Ling Ling about the old ladies you swindled that day, about the thousand dollar policy for “God forbid you need a helicopter to fly you to Stanford Medical.” Always love that “God forbid,” as if you and Ling Ling ever pay attention to the Father in heaven who looks down on you and shakes his head at those cheap white rings.


Now hand me those brochures of yours, and that binder, and all those papers. Oops, got a little careless with my coffee now didn’t I, Trevor. Well, they look better that way, all those insurance forms covered in wet poop is what it looks like to me. Now throw them away and throw that away. Your ring. I’m talking about your ring. Throw it in the river and buy your Ling Ling a real diamond and real gold and something that’ll last if last is what you want.


Is it what you want, Trevor?


Oh Trevor, you don’t know what you want, do you? You’re a sad little boy, that’s what you are, you knowing down deep that Ling Ling is no Carl and that all these brochures belong down the toilet. Now give it to me. That’s it, just tug it on off and hand it to me, I’ll take care of it, and remember that a man who truly loves is a man who would never wear a white porcelain ring. I don’t care what century we’re in, that’s the truth.


Now go, Trevor. Leave me the ring and leave me these brochures, they’re both going to the same dump, and you go, go and find yourself a well that’s reflecting the full moon and you reach in, reach in far until you fall and what a great way to fall and maybe to die, reaching for the illusion of the real thing.


Oh Trevor, just one more thing.


My dream. I did have a dream last night, a dream that I was the emperor of Venice.


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