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Monday, October 24, 2005

And in the Darkness Bind Them...

The Ring. Simple, yet attractive, yet it may consume your mind. It took nearly all my energies to forge, and invested into it is all my will and power. It is impervious and everlasting, yet with it will I ensnare my mortal prey?

Hear my story...

The Forging of the Ring

Ah, The Ring itself... a Ring of Power, my bid for something everlasting, perhaps mortal doom.

I thought it fitting that I would design The Ring myself. Was I building my own shackles, chains I would curse forever? Or was it constructing my own Stargate™ to an unimagined and better world? Either way, it would be a thing of my own construction, something I might damn or bless with my heart and soul, but definitely a product of my thought... which felt right.

Jenny had no rings (a few earrings, three necklaces and two watches was her full collection of jewelry when I met her!), so surreptitious ring sizing was tricky. But doable to a man of my means. It was mostly a matter of carefully calibrated digital camera shots.

The Ring itself was simple. Not too ostentatious in size: an internally-flawless, D-colored, slightly blue-fluorescing, 2.2 carat, round ideal cut in a simple platinum setting. I had no markings or engravings whatsoever (including removing those obnoxious markings that verify platinum content and so on). Simple, clean, pure, and honest.

Sorry, no red diamonds at $1 million per carat. No fancy vivid blues at $500k per carat. No 8 carat flawless white with pink diamond surrounds. No special hand-cast designer setting. Nope... move along, nothing to see here... Even going over two carats might have been a little large given the size of Jenny's fingers because I wanted it to be an every-day ring; no separate wedding band.

Well, so it wasn't two months pay, but DeBeers can shove that advertising up their asses. (I am eager to see the continuing advances artificial diamond technology give the cartel their comeuppance, which, to my mind, started when Argyle left the cartel and control of Russia was lost... but this has yet to fully play out.) And let's keep things in perspective: The Ring cost more than the family home I lived in for most of my life. (Hmm, by coincidence, I called my old home Imladris, and in Tolkein that was a place where The Ring could not remain hidden. What does that mean? No idea. Back to the story...)

The Ring design was so simple that I decided to build a custom ring case. Something special. I used an online computer aided manufacturing system. Very neat: you design whatever 3d thing you want using a computer software package and they ship the finished product to you from their cutting, milling and routing machines. Wave of the future, man. I'm going to do all my stuff this way.

The exterior design had few constraints: originally the case only had to fit the internal ring cushion insert (which is a standard size). But since these inserts were generally of such ugly colors, I later made an angled concentric internal ring post that would fit in the same space. The post curved upwards to show the diamond to good effect. I made the two pieces out of solid blocks of titanium, just because it seemed cool. And in a foot-in-mouth emergency, I could make up some poetry about our hearts "taking flight," or some such romantic nonsense.

I had to send the whole thing to another place for final polishing and such (for example, I had to glue a small strip of leather to the bottom of the post to keep the ring from rotating diamond-down, which required a small post-milling modification), but it was almost all done online.

And that was The Ring and the Ring Bearer.

The Quest

It was hot and wet, conditions I don't like in my weather. I was fumbling with The Ring in my pocket, still trying to sort out the different combinations of possible venues I had set up for The Ask. Days away, but close, too close to mind.

There was a possibility she would say no. Her opinions on marriage were well known to me, as were mine to her. But they were always in a different context. We had alluded to something long term, but the Experiment meant that any direct question would result in The Answer. I am a romantic at heart. I wanted to "pop" the question, so I hadn't asked. But I had a feeling the response would be favorable.

So there I was, in a car cooling off from the sweltering heat, trying to finalize The Ask. The restaurant where we first went out the night of our first unsuccessful kiss? At the Jazz Club where we had our first real date the night of our first successful kiss? The very uncomfortable path, funny in hindsight, to our first sexual encounter at the basement club of the Ritz Carlton? Something related to our first trip together?

I wanted something symbolic. It was also nice to acknowledge the odd history that brought us together, but that was the easy part. I had already prospectively secured a variety of reservations and arrangements in suitable venues. I only had to cancel the ones I wouldn't end up using. So really it was the symbolism that was tough. Besides The Ring itself, of course.

But to develop something symbolic, I first had to identify the thematic elements of our relationship. Fortunately I had determined a theme previously: carrying light into darkness. That would establish the elements of The Ask.

And that made it clear where it should happen. In the dark corners of an intimate jazz club where we had a breakthrough discussion on the role of truth in our relationship. When, after knowing each other for a scant month, I asked her what she saw in our future, and she told me that it seemed likely it would end in pain for her, that the odds were long, and she didn't like to compete with other women for my attention, and so many other things that would ordinarily be so difficult for a woman with so much pride. The night we opened up in a new way, a truthful way, laying bare our fears as well as our hopes. And, to be truthful, the night that ushered in a new age of arguments and fights as we tried and sometimes failed to avoid using that information to hurt each other. But as a watershed point in the relationship, it was most symbolic of the theme of carrying light into darkness.

One Ring to Find Them

So let's establish the setting.

It is the anniversary of our first date. I have rolled up several other anniversaries, our first meeting, our first kiss, and so on, and set Jenny's expectations that we'll have a night out revisiting some of those locations. The same room at the same sushi restaurant for dinner. The same seats at the same theater (which was amazingly difficult to arrange). Ditto the song bar and the karaoke room. The aforementioned jazz club. And the same hotel room. It's going to be an all nighter.

That is special enough to defuse her suspicions, if any.

But there's more. In a country where stretch limos are rare, I have hired the newest one in the country (I should know, it's my damned limo company that bought it). I don't go for a superstretch, because in part I can't get to several of the places we need to go if the car is too long. But it's stretched enough to impress.

The evening goes well. I will spare you the many little details and surprises. It culminates at the jazz club where we first plighted our troth to truth and honesty. I have already announced our love, at an earlier venue where I had arranged to go up to the microphone and in my halting command of the language, tell the audience how I felt about Jenny. I talked about how we had met in this place a year ago, how we had loved and fought, how she was my companion and lover, and how much I looked forward to eternity. Asians are suckers for romance. Many came up afterwards and asked if we were engaged yet. Jenny enjoyed my semi-public declaration of love, but maybe she felt a little unfulfilled given all the questions about engagement. So it was a good set up for the jazz club.

It is very dark. There is one narrow beam halogen light above the jet black table, so narrow that it illuminates the center of the table and not the seats. It is dimmed low. The band has long since retired, replaced with canned music. We are happy, slightly tipsy, our talk orbiting the manner of our meeting, some memories, some memories to be.

At some point I put my suit jacket back on, just before a small cake comes out, decorated with a single candle for our anniversary.

We eat it although I am as nervous as I have ever been. I now remember how strange it felt.

The cake is hollow, and within it is a white shell of meringue. I turn up the halogen, which shines directly upon it, bright enough to light our faces with reflected light. Jenny cracks it, and within is the polished titanium Ring Bearer. For a moment she is confused, but then she gasps and turns to me, eyes shining. I remove the Ring Bearer, shake it off, open it for her, dammit forget to hold it under the light, then remember and move it to the center where the diamond catches the halogen and throws off light in all directions.

I take a deep breath. I remove The Ring, kneel by the table (dark), place the ring upon her finger (trembling), look at her eyes (moist), and Ask her.

Her assent is her hug, her kisses, her tears. It is surreal: the staff have gathered behind us and applause and best-wishes come to us out of the darkness.

And so, poetically, there in a world of darkness, we were bound in our house of light.

The next day, an uncharacteristic private flight for a few days in Bangkok where I had checked out only 10 days before. (By the way, if you can avoid it, do not, N-O-T fly a private jet into Bangkok's main airport. It has one of the most poorly run airports in Asia.) We stay in an overlarge suite at the Peninsula (overlarge = it had a dining room, living room, study, two bedrooms, kitchen, a place for a guard, and possibly other rooms not within walking distance), but a great rooftop deck with a hot-tub and a spectacular view.

And by coincidence, there were plenty of fireworks that night. We pretended they were celebrating our evening... and laughed as we considered them as a web of light in the night sky.


Blogger Karate Kid IV said...

I think at this point, it would be appropriate to suggest a LOTR theme wedding. Something along the lines of Galadriel and the Elf that's always hanging around her, y'know.

Do the place up to look like Rivendell decor, give Jenny an Elvish, yourself a mithril looking suit - even better, hire the costume designer for LOTR.

I mean, you could add elf ears and you'd still look fine....

10/26/2005 3:55 AM  
Blogger Sigmund said...

Well I always imagined the elves in LOTR being Asian...

10/30/2005 12:00 PM  
Blogger Thaϊs said...

When designing the elements of elven culture for the movie, PJ used more Asian than European motives - so it does seem fitting.
Galadriel's husband was called Celeborn. And yes, I am a nerd who was following the progress of LOTR making through fandom discussions and official news :)...

10/31/2005 6:01 AM  

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