I started wearing my dad’s wedding ring on my the first day at the Job Centre Plus. After feeling uncomfortable with the attention girls in uni had been giving me for the past three years, I thought giving off the message that I was taken would keep my female colleagues at a safe distance.
That first morning, when I was getting dressed for my first day at the office, it didn’t occur to me that my mum would sooner or later tell them that I am far from married, nor did I think of the fact that most people only get near their five-a-day if you count forbidden fruits. In a nutshell, my life would be a whole lot easier if I would’ve left the ring at home that day. Once I’d started wearing it, though, I felt there was no way back.
My colleagues and I go for lunch together several times a week. They tell me all about their internet dates, boyfriends and heartache, and I know they’re hoping to hear my secret to a successful relationship. Little do they know the secret is not to have one.
I’ve decided a long time ago that if they ask about my wife, I’ll act surprised, and when they point at my ring, tell them it’s my dad’s. I’ll show them that mum's name is engraved on the inside, and I'll pretend to be well sentimental about the fact that my male role model disappeared when I was at such a tender age – even though in reality, I’m glad I didn’t turn out like him.
Ever since I came up with that escape, I’ve been looking forward to the day someone asks about my ring, yet so far, none of my colleagues has.
Elaine is the first to ask.
And even though it’s none of her business, I shake my head.
After everything that has happened between us, I wouldn’t dream of inviting her into my emotional sphere again. But all she had to do was be here. Look at me. And ask. If I would’ve had some time to think about the script of my own life, I would’ve given myself a line along the lines of “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re referring to. Has Christian Bale gotten back to you yet?”
But my head shook before I could think about it, and my mouth spoke before I could read the autocue.
“I’m not married,” I said, “and I haven’t changed. Neither have you, by the way. You look good.”
What am I doing? Am I chatting her up?
If I am, it seems to be working, as she smiles, takes my hand and scribbles something on the inside of my ringed finger. “Let’s go for a drink later this week” she said.
And instead of denying that I knew her, instead of saying that I never wanted to see her again, instead of transferring her case to one of my colleagues, I looked at my finger and asked: “Is that a nine or a four?”