You'll have noticed that I don't wear gold, and never vary my jewellery much, the standard items being a plain silver ring on my left little finger, a curly-looking silver ring on my right ring finger, a stainless-steel Tag Heuer lady's watch on my left wrist, a chunky silver bangle on my right wrist, and discreet titanium studs in my ears. The only thing that ever gets changed is the neckware, and even here it's almost always just one of three items nowadays: my pearls, a Labradorite pendant with a silver chain, and a thick silver necklace that looks a bit like a slow-worm. This post is about the last item.
You'll have often seen my slow-worm in pictures of myself. Here it is in close-up with the Labradorite pendant:
And here it is around my neck in a Winchester pub yesterday evening:
Yesterday was an anniversary. Exactly three years ago, on 27 November 2008, M--- bought that slow-worm for me as a gift when we were in Bournemouth for the day. It came from a shop just off the town centre called Enigma. My coming-out to her was still recent; she was still struggling to cope; we'd had a blazing row that afternoon; but, meeting up later, the anger and frustration felt by both sides had died down, and we earnestly wanted to be good to each other. I'd seen this necklace in Enigma. I'd wanted one like it for years past. I'd bought M--- a slightly more slender version twelve years previously. Now I wanted to have one myself, to match hers. In a way, a strong gesture of togetherness when so much was starting to fall apart. I had hesitated over the cost. She didn't hesitate. The purchase was made. Once mine, I wore it proudly, straight away. Of course it was a very girly possession: my first openly-wearable major item of proper ladies jewellery. But it was still androgynous enough for her to feel comfortable with it.
It was the last present from her that was given in anything like the circumstances, with anything like the feeling, of all the other gifts we'd given each other through the years.
We didn't stop buying more things for each other in the months ahead. For instance, when I finally had to move out, I bought her a laptop and other stuff to go with it, so that - with my PC gone - she could still process her own photos and be on the Internet. She bought me things like a Chinese tea set, exquisite and attractive and loaded with significance. But all these following things were given with sadness and regret for what was passing, and were inevitably either practical gifts, or tinged with symbolism for what had been, and was now tragically fading, and might in time be forgotten.
But the slow-worm was different. I loved it, and it gave me pleasure and hope, if not for us, then for a meaningful future I couldn't yet see, but felt sure would come. And it has, but M--- is not in it, and it isn't the future she wanted but the future she feared. And that is a sad thing that is sometimes very hard to bear; but at least I have this reminder that, despite everything, I was once loved with an all-consuming fire, and without despair.