Only the Opal Knows

by | Oct 17, 2020 | Dean Cleaning One | 10 comments

The pear-shaped opal ring barely glitters in the fluorescent lighting the afternoon I meet him. It’s not an expensive ring. The neon flecks aren’t prominent or myriad. There are two tiny diamond specks on either side of the stone, said to rid the opal of any negative energy. I bought it the summer before at the Thieves’ Market. When I saw the ring for the first time, I saw hope. Tip pointed out, I wore it like a Claddagh ring to show I’m available. Every morning I slip it onto my ring finger and prepare to hope.

We fall into each other. I bring him my fancy tea and he brings me day olds from the coffee shop where he works. Our hands graze in the exchange. I’m careful the opal doesn’t scratch him. His hands are large, rough. I want them on the sensitive skin under my shirt. That feeling alone would make me moan. Before class we snack on a bench, my knee lightly bumping into his. We pretend we’re civilized.

It’s a few weeks before I invite him back to my dorm room and we get better acquainted. His hands under my shirt are everything I wanted. The drag of his skin against mine. In a freeze frame you’d see him holding me. My arms around his neck, my chest pressed against his. Our mouths having a different kind of conversation. But you’d have to freeze frame it because it didn’t last. I’m getting exactly what I want when his hands slip down and rip off my shirt. I’m topless in front of a guy for the first time. Sharply freezing in the air conditioning. Aware of the random freckles, the skin tags, the unfortunate nude-colored bra that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than me. In his hurry, my opal scratched his neck. He doesn’t seem to notice as he smushes me against him. My body feels all fat and jelly. I push off him with the same motion I’d learned to pass a basketball.

He’s confused, hurt. I don’t know what to say. Words seem impossible. I fumble for my shirt. I’ll be able to think better when I’m dressed. His hair swoop falls forward as he reaches for his bag. It’s firmly on his shoulder when I realize my body is blocking his exit. His face is hard. He’s projecting false toughness, but he’s closed off. I don’t know how to have the conversation I want to have. The boy from the bench is gone, and I let him pass.

The way he tells it he was in love with me and I rejected him. It’s how he gets the next girl. They look into his big blue eyes, see his pain and curse my name. No one ever asks me what happened, no one cares. I’m the past, they’re the future and the past never repeats itself.

10 Comments

  1. David O'Connor

    I push off him with the same motion I’d learned to pass a basketball.–what a great line! Also, the last one is a stunner. Overall, I like how the opal acts as a springboard and a protector from the memory/fumbled affair/wanted romance. I feel like if you scratch the emotion surface here a little, a whole world will come tumbling out. Very observant of details too, thanks for sharing! Can’t wait for more!!

  2. Tommy Dean

    Love, love how the object, the ring, creates your story event! I love how the camera goes back to the ring, making us wait on the meeting because the voice has to make sure we understand how important the ring is, even if it’s cheap. It greats a feeling of hope, so it’s worthy of our deeper inspection! “Tip pointed out, I wore it like a Claddagh ring to show I’m available. Every morning I slip it onto my ring finger and prepare to hope.” Love the details here that lead to the feeling! Great balance!

    Now we’ve met him and the narrator can’t help but tell us her desire, and I love the way the opal is only mentioned once but given the power to harm, to ruin the mood…this keeps us in suspense! “We pretend we’re civilized.” Love, love this line! This feels like the thematic heart of the piece! all of the opposites dwell here! Her desire, the cheap opal ring…This might even work as the title?

    The vulnerability of this next paragraph, the inspection of the object from the first paragraph is gone and has shifted toward the narrator’s own body. This is a subtle, but great sense of story here! And love how the opal does inflict the damage it can, but how he’s unfazed by his desire…How you gave it power to harm, but it couldn’t hold up against him. There’s some really great, subtle magic here!

    Love the way this ends, the way she can’t say what she wants to say, the way he uses it against her…I love the truth of this, not that it did? could happen. I’d love to see that opal appear one more time here when she’s blocking the door or at the end. Give it one more chance to shift maybe? This story has great shifts already, so I think it can hold one more!

  3. Constance Malloy

    Okay, you were going to write about Chrysanthemums, and I swear I have this same ring. I will never look at it the same way again. Tommy has mentioned all my favorite lines from this. Comparing it to Claddagh ring (I have one of those, too) was great. I would love the opal to come back again as well. Opals are considered fragile stones, and the fact that it doesn’t break is a further metaphor for the narrator’s ability to go on.

  4. Roberta Beary

    Love the way this story of budding romance builds to what the reader thinks will be a bang, but instead gets:
    “The boy from the bench is gone, and I let him pass.”

    This fragment is a keeper, one to which most women can relate: “..the unfortunate nude-colored bra that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than me.” You’ve some wonderful images in this story, as others have mentioned!

    My daughter is born in October so she got all the opal baubles I’ve been gifted over the years. I know of their propensity for bad luck for those not born in October. Would there be a way to pull that into the story, I wonder. Just a thought. It’s good as is, definitely!

  5. Francine Witte

    I love the basketball line. I could really feel that. Also the drag of his skin Some beautiful lines here. And a good story. Well done

  6. Clementine Burnley

    Love how the opal attains the status of talisman. Every time its mentioned a powerful process engages me as a reader. I love the shifts in story and how the characters each get to play out complex emotions, and how neither is made right or wrong. I connect strongly to the inarticulateness of the MC, its so often the case that whats inside doesnt get voiced and people move on to the next thing, and there’s gossip. I really felt the symbolic and actual truth there.

  7. Gay Degani

    Chelsea, this is fantastic. I was right there with you from start to finish. What do opals symbolize? I think it IS hope, but I’ll have to look it up. I love that it’s an opal in that ring since that stone shifts in color just as the character does in this story. You hold it one way and it flashes pink, another yellow, and still also blue. Which I think is how your story unwinds.

    This is such a clear and very real scene. I think almost every woman has experienced this: I’m topless in front of a guy for the first time. Sharply freezing in the air conditioning. Aware of the random freckles, the skin tags, the unfortunate nude-colored bra that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than me. In his hurry, my opal scratched his neck. He doesn’t seem to notice as he smushes me against him. My body feels all fat and jelly. I push off him with the same motion I’d learned to pass a basketball.

  8. Christina Rosso-Schneider

    This is such a sad piece, but it feels so human and relatable, which I really love. You also do an excellent job including real-life examples/descriptions: “the unfortunate nude-colored bra that was never meant to be seen by anyone other than me.” I have that bra and I’ve been this girl in this moment. Really nice job!

  9. Meg Tuite

    Hi Chelsea!
    oh these fuckfaces! How can they be so rabid? DAMN! I love all the visceral descriptions throughout this. That the opal has two sides of light. Very nice! My only suggestion would be dropping the last paragraph. Keep it within the context of these two and as a reader I can only imagine what will happen with the next. LOVE!

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