Just like everything I do in life, it’s never easy, never straightforward, and never without something going a bit nuts. And yes, this story — about a quest, the awkward resolution of that quest, the (temporary) loss of said resolution, the dinner date, and a police “incident” — is no different.
It hasn’t been much of a secret that Dee and I were intending on getting married, but as Dee kept saying, (while referring to some random left finger) “I don’t see a ring on it.”
And so earlier this year, I devoted a bit of effort to working out what she wanted and just learning about rings. I looked at the wikipedia page and I casually examined the rings of people at work when an opportunity arose. But still, to me, an engagement ring seemed a pretty basic thing — obviously expensive and possibly meaningful — but essentially just a bit of gold with a diamond of varying size glued to the top. Of course, I quickly realised they were a bit more complex than that. When prompted, Dee tried her best to explain what she liked; but it was a bit like trying to explain to an alien why Kim Kardashian is popular.
The only thing that registered with me was that she wanted something Art Deco. So I googled around and sent her pictures of rings asking if she liked them. Most she hated, but this one — which I thought was pretty awesome — she liked.
Anyway, I secretly mentioned my plight to Carly at work (who Dee mentioned had a ring similar to what she was looking for) and she told me to go to Penfolds in the city, which is a tiny shop on Adelaide Street where you knock on the door and they buzz you in. So I went there and talked about getting a ring made — but later that seemed a lot of hard work and hard thinking and above my very, very basic skills in this department. Next, on separate occasions, Dee and I looked at rings at Paddington Antique Centre. All the while I was getting an understanding of what she liked and an idea about the complexity of these tiny objects.
Just last weekend, we spent a great deal of Sunday searching. At that Antique Centre in Annerley we came close. Even though it wasn’t quite perfect, it gave us hope that something just right was out there.
Fast forward to yesterday. Dee had a meeting in the city and she called me up and said ‘let’s meet after and visit Penfolds’. We got buzzed in and had a good look at all they had, but again, nothing jumped out at us. As we wandered back up the mall, the Brisbane Arcade came upon us and I suggested we have a look. And there were plenty of jewellery shops in there with very few rings in 4 digits — but despite that, nothing really struck a chord. We were about to leave when I said, “Why don’t we have a look upstairs?” And Dee was like, “I didn’t even realise there were shops up there.”
But I knew there was at least one cause my friend Anna, a jewellery maker (who incidentally made Dee an amazing brooch once) used to work at a store up there. Up the Arcade’s cold, hard — but beautiful — stone staircase, we walked down the narrow balcony feeling entirely out of place. There was only one jewellery store up there and it was called Kellies. We had a look in the window and Dee pointed at something she liked. Just glancing at it through the glass I knew it was worth a better look, so we went in.
At this point I should say I am a terrible consumer. I LOVE buying stuff, but I HATE shopping unless it’s a quick and simple transaction. I HATE any complication to the process of just picking up and item and carrying it to a register and paying for it and walking out. Consequently I absolutely hate these things:
1) trying clothes on
2) having sales people talk to me
3) asking how much something costs if it doesn’t have a price tag on it
4) paying for expensive things on credit or EFTPOS just in case that fails
5) asking someone to open a locked cabinet (or take something out of the front window)
6) excessive gratification upon purchase of an item by sales people.
But I just nutted-up and swaggered inside and immediately said in as clear a voice as I could manage, “Can we have a look at one of your rings please?” And it should be said Dee is a lot like me in the awkward-shopping department. She was still a bit shy and hadn’t even entered the shop yet and as I finished my sentence there was a pregnant pause while the staff must have considered if it was actually me that wanted to try on a ring. Sensing that vibe, I turned around and almost had to drag Dee inside.
Once inside, Dee stepped up to the task. She tried it on and it looked great. There was a full-length mirror there too, which seemed indulgent, but actually helped the process of bonding. It fit almost perfectly — just a fraction too big — and once that was clear I could tell Dee was getting pretty excited.
We were told it was made in the 1940s — which possibly made it even rarer with that big war thing that happened back then. And crucially it cost only $5 short of my most maximum limit. Like the “you’re dreaming limit”. So I told the sales person we’d go get some lunch and have a think about it.
Just as we got out of earshot of the store I said, “Let’s do it.” There’s no point doing things half-arsed. I’ve learnt that lesson the hard way. I also thought it was poetic because it came from Patrick and James Mayne’s old stomping ground. Dee was like, “Really?” And then again, “REALLY?”
I said, “Totally.”
So as Dee went back to work I said, ‘you have about 10 minutes to change your mind. Send me a text if you do, but I am buying this ring’. We parted and I stopped at ToyWorld to buy a massive lego set for my nephew Hugo (which I actually want to buy for myself). I then swung back down the mall and up those stone-steps two-at-a-time and then straight into that store and gave that sales woman an “I’ll-take-it-thumbs-up”.
I must have looked entirely incongruous to the normal clientele of the Brisbane Arcade (at best) and decidedly dodgy (at worst). I presume the staff agreed I looked more on the “dodgy” side of the equation. See, it was a hot day and I was a bit sweaty with all my walking and also, it should be said, a bit nervous with the magnitude of things.
And because I had no idea I would be doing this when I got dressed that morning, I was attired in shorts, a crappy t-shirt and shod in boring sneakers. Plus I was carrying a massive Mr Toy’s ToyWorld bag. So I didn’t quite look your typical buyer of an engagement ring that cost what was effectively a very, very big deal. And the sales person took a stupidly long look — the longest I have ever experienced — before deciding my signature matched the scrawl on the back of my card. It was then that I remembered that agreement with Dee to text me if she wanted to pull out. Shit. I wrenched at my pocket to look at my phone but there were no messages. Phew.
The sales-woman took another eternity to wrap the ring-box up and do the paperwork and all the while kept looking quite obviously back over at the eftpos machine — expecting it to go, “Abort Sale! Stolen card!” She spent an eternity reinforcing the decision of my purchase, which was possibly just her stalling in case my card was declined.
AND THEN I LOST IT…
But eventually I was allowed to leave and I walked back to the office over Victoria Bridge and I was so nervous. I was holding something so tiny and so precious and so new to us. To add to the drama it was so windy I thought it might get blown out of my hand and over the edge into the river. So I held onto that little package as tight as possible. Back at the office it was like the elephant in the room. I barely let it out of my sight. Eventually its aura was so fucking acute I just had to show someone. So a
few (most of the office) peeps got a sneak preview.
Meanwhile I emailed Dee and said, “Let’s go to Sono tonight for dinner.”
“Ok,” she said, pretending to be reluctant.
There was incredible romance behind my words — it just wasn’t quite obvious at the time.
At quittin’-time I rode home and dropped the bike off, then jumped into the car and drove off to pick up Dee as she walked home. We needed some groceries so we took a detour to Rosalie. At the lights on Baroona Road I opened up the box to have another look at the ring and then it fumbled out of my hand and disappeared between the seat and the middle console. ARGH! The lights then changed and Dee tried to grab it but it had completely disappeared and she couldn’t get her hand into that tiny place. “Shit, shit, shit,” I thought, but instead said, “It’s cool. I’ll find it, you go do the shopping.”
So I parked and I jumped into the back seat and lying on my back I hunted around down there for a good minute or two. At one point I was looking around for the bolts of the seat, deciding that I just might need to remove the driver’s seat to find the little bugger. But then inside a bracket I felt something that could be it. I didn’t want to push it any further into that void so I very slowly and carefully slid it towards the opening, only losing it’s grip once. “Please, please, please” I begged to the Cosmos and then it was out and I was saved. Phew.
As I got out of the back seat so amazeballs with relief, I saw my mate Jesse riding past, like my St Christopher angel, and that was another amazing omen. We did a high-five and it felt good. Of course I don’t believe in religion or superstition, but I appreciate the poetry of circumstance.
[all pictures from here on are by iPhone — so not great, but credible!]
Sono is our most favourite restaurant in Brisbane. But of course I managed to snap a chopstick within seconds of beginning my meal. But that didn’t spoil the sushi and gyoza and sake and wine and sapporo and it was all awesome!
Oh yeah — I did the presentation and Dee forgot to say ‘yes’, but an agreement was pretty much implied by her putting on the ring — I think. The ring looks fucking spectacular. It is so shiny and intricate and looks amazing from all angles. I didn’t think I had it in me to appreciate a ring before — but now I do.
After dinner we went for a walk and started thinking about announcing the whole thing on the interwebs. I took a photo of Dee in front of the Story Bridge and captioned it with some lame reference to Romney and “binders full of women” and the word “engaged”. Then clicked “share”. Pretty soon notifications were going a bit crazy.
Then we headed up to the bridge and took the “Pow!” photo (as seen at top) for our Instagram buddies. Just before that I noticed a woman climbing off this maintenance platform at the side of the bridge. She was with some dude and she gave me a cheeky look like she had been naughty and they both scurried away across the bridge. Meanwhile Dee was on the phone to someone who had rung to congratulate her and suddenly we were swarmed by cops – a few on bicycles and a few on foot. A bit further down they had started closing off the left lane of the bridge. They were using torches to look up and around and so I asked the police what was happening and they said they were responding to a call of a “jumper” on the bridge. And so I told them what I had saw just before and said I thought they were just hippy tourists mucking around — definitely not acting in a suicidal manner.
Then I brazenly said, “We just got engaged!” and we showed them the ring which they thought was pretty cool — or at least did a good job of pretending to. Maybe they just wanted to placate us silly louts and get us to move along. Probably the latter.
So then we stumbled on towards the Story Bridge Hotel for one more drink and a few calls to parentals and then it was home and one last look at the ring before sleep.