beneath the treasure

on my birthday, you bought me a bracelet.

linked to it was one charm, the kind of clasp that you can fasten and unfasten yourself.

“add what you like to it,” you said, opening up jewellery and fashion sites and going to the charms section. it struck me as patronising even then, like you thought you were conferring on me some gift greater than that of a thin chain and hook-on charms.

and over the months that followed, i bought a dozen new charms, mixed and matched to suit my mood, my clothes, the weather.

they lay in boxes, lightly wrapped in tissue paper, lining the shelves i installed when the collection began to take up too much space elsewhere. every morning, it was the last piece of routine before i hurried out the door, collecting and spacing charms neatly out on the chain.

i did this every day, thriving on the routine and determined to never repeat the same pattern or combination twice; this was helped by new boxes, ordered online, arriving and being stacked neatly on the shelf.

one day, you were running late for work.

“what are you doing?” you wondered, leaning on the doorway as i clipped the charms in place and looped it around my wrist.

“i’m putting what i like on it, just as you said.”

you walked closer, examining the mix of charms – a teapot, a book, a laptop, a penguin, a heart and a clover.

“they don’t have anything to do with each other,” you said, bewildered. “there’s no pattern or theme.”

no – there wasn’t. the only reason behind it was what i felt like doing.

i slipped on my jacket, adjusted an earring.

“there doesn’t need to be,” i answered. i suppose i should have known better than to try and explain it to a scientist – you were always looking for solid answers, specific reasons. if there was something you didn’t know, you’d go and learn it.

you seemed to pay more attention to it after that, becoming a bit more dismayed each time you saw the different assortment of charms. as ever, there was no rhyme or reason, just a mix of items that didn’t make sense to you.

life became steady, dull: we fell into the same old routine. you seemed to enjoy the predictability, but it drove me mad.

i bought more charms, spent more time adding them, adding more and more.

things began to fall apart.

you complained that i didn’t want the same things you did. you wanted stability and comfort, i wanted interest and intrigue.

one morning, in a rebelliously irritable mood, i fastened on every charm i could find. they clanked against each other, serving to further grate on my nerves, and took up every loop i could see. the chain felt suffocating, clinging too tightly and feeling too cuff-like.

i yanked at it, not trying the clasp, and under the weight of all the charms, the chain gave easily. charms scattered over the floor, bouncing into corners and under furniture. you stopped, stared at me incredulously.

fair enough. there was no reason that either of us could discern for me to do that.

even so, i hurried out the door, avoiding you and all concern.

we didn’t speak about it that night, me dodging all your attempts – you knew perfectly well what i was doing, and didn’t try to stop it.

in the other room, charms still remained scattered just where they were, and i knew i ought to pick them up, rewrap them and put them back in their boxes.

instead, i jumbled them all hastily into my jewellery box, shoving it into a suitcase as i began to pack. you didn’t come after me, maybe already sensing what i was doing. i crammed clothes and books and makeup into bags, carrying as much as i could.

i began to shift everything to my car, already planning to find a hotel and new apartment. you did nothing to stop me, knowing that when i got so determined as to begin plans, nothing could stop me.

walking out the door, my heel slipped on something, scratching up the floor.

i moved my foot and there lay the broken pieces of the chain.

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