You woke up beside Linda, your fortune-teller who claimed to be Gypsy, but when you said, “Roma?” she didn’t know what you were talking about so you considered her claim dubious. Still, there were, obviously, things you liked about her. She’d been in the middle of a poker game when you got there last night and she’d handed you a can of Pilsner before you’d even sat down, so you’d never been able to ask your question. Where’d you lose the ring to? You shook your head when you thought about it, then you stopped shaking your head when you realized how badly it rattled your beer-shrunk brain.
“The TV,” Linda said in her sleep, as if in answer to your unarticulated question. “Behind it.”
You knew, relatively speaking, that the Queen streetcar was quiet at nine a.m., but each breath of hydraulic breaks and rattle of the cars’ windows stuck pins in your skull.
The apartment would need to be tidied and aired out before your girlfriend got home. You’d had a strange week; well, two strange nights—the one with Linda and one earlier this week with your best friend Aaron. That night is when the apartment got done in, mostly because Aaron hadn’t been away from his daughter in a week and you were feeling desperately lonely. That night was the last night you’d seen the ring—you’d showed it to Aaron who shook his head and asked you if you knew what you were getting into. You still hadn’t resorted to calling him, though you had some suspicion that he’d taken the engagement ring to save you from the same fate as him. Which was crazy, ’cause you knew that actually he was happy.
You were staring at the pile of records teetering on top of the television mostly because you couldn’t bare the sight—never mind the smell—of the empties on the coffee table in front of you. Your immobility, though easy on your hangover, was hard on your guilt. Standing over your LPs was hard work and your breath was so wet with toxins that you thought you might puke so you sat down beside the hand-me-down, cathode ray tube unit and rested your head against its veneer. You wanted some company so you reached around the front of the TV and hit the power switch. There was neither the familiar electric snap nor hum of the unit coming to life. You stroked your eyebrows before looking behind the TV. The plug lay on the ground like an unfinished thought. In its place in the wall was Aaron’s cell phone charger. You put your head back against the side of the TV and blindly groped for the charger. Once it was out, you felt for the TV plug. It was an amusement, finding the wire then following it with your fingers, feeling for the end. Your hand touched something cold. Your heart beat like it already knew what it was, but you were reluctant to agree with your heart. When you held it in front of your eyes, you let yourself believe that it was the ring. Behind the TV, just like sleeping Linda said. She was good, eerily. You slid the ring down your pinky, but couldn’t get it over your second knuckle.
You made coffee then cleaned with the ring halfway on. When you were done cleaning, you felt just the right type of bad that you figured a beer would help. You opened two, sat down on the couch and asked yourself if you were actually ready to propose.
You decided that you were.
Toronto, April-May 2015
Story: Lee Sheppard
Emoji sequence: Jim Guthrie