The earrings I favor and love more than any other pair, jeweled or not, are the earrings I am wearing today. I do not love them solely for the gold as if they are medals awarded to me for some grand Olympian feat. I love them because of their shape. They are objects of stillness and of great movement; they hang in balance, globes or spheres, the same way a dancer arches her back, leaping high into the air in a grand jeté.
I cannot jump the same way I did as a girl or as a young woman. So my earrings remind me of the dancer I could have been had I known back then what I have come to know now—we always lose the things we most love.
The funny thing about the earrings I have on today is how fearful I had become over the prospect of losing them. They are fastened by a tension spring wire that is inserted into a tubular opening to complete the full circle of a hoop. While the closure is snug, gold breathes, expands and over time grows old like any other object, living or not, making it easier to pop the spring wire out of the tubular opening.
The easier it became to pop open the latches on these golden earrings, the more fearful I became of losing them. I was careful to avoid walking over open sewer grates, or any portals to underground water works, electrical systems and trains. Always vigilant, I never leaned too near the edge of a subway platform. I wouldn’t stand close to the edge anyway but when I wore my earrings I was extra careful, protecting them as if they were two small children.
If one of my earrings popped into the tracks, I would not throw myself before an oncoming train like Anna Karenina mourning the loss of her lover Count Vronsky. I might be crazy in love with my earrings, but not enough to risk dying for them. I did imagine jumping into the track, retrieving my beloved earring, and leaping back up to the platform with the speed and agility of an Olympic athlete or an elite dancer.
I knew this was a half-baked notion. As a woman of a certain age, my body does not always do what I want it to do, especially when I dance.
I did other bizarre things, though. When mailing letters I did not lean in too close to the mailbox. I stopped wearing scarves because flowing fabric snagged the earrings’ closures and unsprang the tension wires. I also chose to wear coats, sweaters and shirts with modest collars that did not creep upward to jangle the earrings. And in my latest work of fiction, The Heart of Yonkers, the main character, Cookie is always losing things, especially her earrings.
So I had this fear and this habit of always checking my earrings to see if they were still there. My character Cookie does the same thing. In Chapter Seven, she loses an earring. This is after losing her keys, her jeans and her heart. I feared I would lose things too. And I did. Soon after I completed the first draft of The Heart of Yonkers, I lost my golden earring. I lost my earring months after Cookie lost her own earring.
My own earring unlatched in a way I had not imagined in fiction or real life. It was a fluke, a freak accident. I was in the bathroom, wearing my fluffy robe, using the toilet. I flushed the toilet with my left hand when at that same precise moment my right shoulder shrugged up the shawl collar of my robe, caught my right earring and tossed it into the toilet. I saw the glint of gold whirring in the water and go down the toilet. Godspeed. There was no chance to recover the earring and no way to retrieve it from the bowels of the sewer. Gone.
The good thing about losing my earring in the toilet was the clarity of knowing it could not be recovered. It was not as though I had walked two miles on a windy, rainy day in a zig-zag trek so complicated that if I had to retrace my steps, I could not remember where I had been; so I’d spend my time looking at the bleak, wet pavement in vain and on the verge of walking into a passerby or a passing car.
My moment of irony came when I recalled the one place where I did not fear losing my earrings. Whenever I did turns in ballet class, no matter how rapid or chaotic, the earrings stayed fastened on my ears, almost as if inertia was a holy glue, the same force as the willing suspension of disbelief in fiction that keeps a story whole and compelling to the reader.
I cannot say for sure whether my character Cookie would have had the terrible habit of losing things, especially her earrings, had I not been fearful of losing mine. She did lose her earring and many months later the man she loved happened to find it, the same way the man I love gave me my golden earrings as a gift one Christmas and later replaced my lost earring with a custom match.
Of the two earrings I am wearing today, one is not the original, but I cannot tell which one. Nor can I tell you if I would have written about a character who loses her earring if I had not been fearful of losing my own. I only know when we least expect it, love is taken away from us. And while I cannot jump the same way I did as a girl or as a young woman, my earrings remind me how we must first lose the things we most love to know for sure the love was real.
Patricia Vaccarino has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, content, books, essays and articles. Some of her essays and articles can be found in her press kit on PR for People. The Heart of Yonkers is a sequel to YONKERS Yonkers! A story of race and redemption. Book Three in the Yonkers series is in development. She has an audience of 40,000+ followers on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. She divides her time between homes in downtown Seattle and the north coast of Oregon.