Lessons in Accessorizing: A Childhood Traumedy

Milford Creek Lane was a straight, flat stretch of middle-class Georgian suburbia. The blue ranch house I called home sat about a quarter mile from the stop sign at the end of the street. During the school year, I walked that route twice a day to catch the bus in the morning and return home in the afternoon.

One morning in early winter, my breath clung to the frigid air in front of me as I walked—the grass still turgid and shimmering with overnight frost. I wore a navy wool coat and scratchy black gloves. On top of the gloves, I wore my newest prized position: a real, grown-up ring.

I had told my mother I wanted a real ring, and for reasons I’ll never understand, she allowed me this indulgence. She took me to Uptons department store where I peered in to the jewelry case on my tip toes. I picked out a small gold ring with a marquise amethyst and the tiniest of diamonds lacing over it.

The next day, I was so eager to show off my new ring, I couldn’t bear to cover it with a glove. So my eight-year-old genius decided to wear the ring on top.

When I arrived at the stop sign that morning, my fellow bus riders gathered in a loose mosh pit on the sidewalk. Older children and troubled children and stranger children all intimidated me, so I kept to myself.

I shoved my hands in my coat pockets and felt a wad of cloth. Pulling it out, I recognized my other pair of gloves. Not only did this set better match my coat, it also had sparkles woven in the fabric, giving it all the softness of a Brillo Pad.

Without a moment of hesitation, I peeled off my black gloves and put on the newfound haute couture pair instead.

I sat in my fourth-grade desk at school for no more than 10 minutes that day before the revelation occurred: my fingers were bare. The ring was gone.

Dread rose in my chest as my child-brain backtracked through the morning and realized the ring had popped off at the bus stop when I switched the gloves.

It could be anywhere now. It could have rolled into the sewer. It could be caught up in the blades of a lawnmower—yes, even in the winter! It could have been carried off in the talons of an eagle, swallowed by a jewelry-eating dog, found and kept by a vicious neighbor with excellent taste in rings.

My mother would never buy me another ring again. She might never buy me anything at all! I’d probably never have another valuable possession for the rest of my life. I hadn’t deserved the ring, and now I’d lost it in my first 24 hours of ownership. The thought of having to tell my mom what I’d done twisted my stomach in knots. Laying my head on the cool faux-wood of my desk, I tried not to cry or panic or simply bust through the school exit and sprint all the way home to look for it.

My nerves turned to nausea as the day ached on. Every bump and turn and squealing first-grader on the excruciating bus ride home forced my stomach farther up into my throat. As the yellow behemoth rounded the last turn to get to our stop, my entire body tensed.

By requirement only, I waited until the screeching brakes came to a complete halt before bolting to the front. I arrived at the door as it opened casually via accordion fold with its customary whoosh of air.

Darting out, I launched for the spot where I was standing when I switched gloves. I flung myself on the ground—aware of how strange I might look yet not caring in the least—and smooshed my hands frantically into the grass hoping to feel the hard metal against my soft palms.

Nothing. Nothing but cold dirt.

And then, amid my panic and dismay and guilt and terror and disappointment, I saw a glint of gold hope among the sullen green. I crawled over on my hands and knees.

There it was. Unscathed. Unaware of the anguish I’d endured over the past six hours. Bathing in the sunshine, just waiting for me to come home.

Even though I haven’t worn rings over my gloves since, I still don’t trust myself with valuable jewelry.

File Aug 06, 9 37 23 AM

nomads: bar for the lost

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.

“Well…I, um…I don’t know,” she stammered, caught off guard by his question. “I guess it was right before I hit the tree.”

She stared at the wine glass in front of her, swirling it out of habit. Juicy red slid up the sides.

The bartender let out knowing grunt, “Guess it was a little late then, huh?”

Gentry arched an eyebrow without meeting his gaze. “Yeah,” she shrugged. “I guess it was.”

She spun around the bar stool to evade more questioning, trying to piece together how she ended up at Nomads: Bar for the Lost.

She’d set out that morning beach-bound to visit her sister, who was spending a month at the coast, a sort of post-divorce sabbatical. She’d found a marsh-front bungalow in a quiet seaside town and quickly realized she wasn’t cut out for solitude. Grabbing a few postcards from the Center Street post office, she sent one to Gentry, urging her younger sister to come stay for the weekend.

She’d promised sand and seashells and peach sangria. And that was all Gentry’s overworked and underpaid ears needed to hear. She packed a bag, poured a week’s worth of food into the cat’s bowl, and was on her way.

Wanting to slip into beach mode, Gentry opted to power down the GPS and map out back roads to get to the shore instead. Four hours into the drive, while running low on fuel, she grabbed the map from the passenger’s seat to try to figure out the best town to stop and fill up.

And that’s when she realized she was lost.

That’s also when she stopped watching the road for a second too long and accelerated her ’93 Pontiac Sunfire straight into an oak tree.

Stunned from the impact, it took Gentry a moment to refocus. As smoke billowed from the hood, she tried opening the door, only to find it was jammed shut. She dragged herself across the console to the other side. The passenger side door opened enough for her to squeeze her body out, grabbing her phone from the floor board on the way.

Backing away from the wreckage in a daze, she checked the phone. No service, naturally. And with few alternatives in sight on that lonely road, Gentry began to walk back toward the direction from which she came.

She had only gone few, sluggish minutes when she saw the sign.

Nomads: Bar for the Lost – Turn right 0.1 miles

When she arrived, flinging the door open wide, the bartender barely looked up. But he poured her a glass of wine before she ever sat down.

Now she pondered the strangeness of the establishment: how it existed in the middle of nowhere, the bartender’s apathetic questioning, the fact that the wine she’d been sipping on since she arrived never seemed to diminish.

She swiveled back around to face him. “I could really use a phone, if you have one that gets service out here.”

He paused, considering her request. “Phones won’t do you any good here. You can’t call out.”

“What do you mean, you can’t call out?” she retorted.

He leaned on the bar with both hands, lowered his face until it was just inches away from hers.

“Look. You don’t come here to make phone calls. You don’t even come here to drink wine. You come here because there are only two places left to go. You’re waiting for your ride to which ever one you’re destined for.”

Gentry narrowed her eyes, trying to process what he was suggesting.

“I hate to break it to you, but you must have taken a pretty bad blow in that crash. But hey, at least that part’s over with, right?”

She shook her head with clear defiance. “No..No…No…No…No,” she whispered.

“There’s nothing else you can do, sweetheart. Now you just have to wait.”

Gentry’s voice grew desperate, pleading. “No. No. NO. NO! NO!”

The bartender threw his hands in the air. “You don’t have to believe me…It won’t change the truth though. And it definitely won’t change what happens next.”

Still shaking her head in disbelief, she looked him in the eye, “If it’s true…if what you’re saying is true…how did you end up here?”

The corners of his lips turned up at the thought.

“I got here the same way you did, doll…the same way we all do…I didn’t know I was lost until it was just a little too late.”