The Diamond

After the razor blade had boiled for thirty minutes, she carefully lifted it in her fingers between two sterile pads, then thrust one immaculate edge of steel deeply into her thigh. Into the cut, she inserted the sterilized diamond, burying it under a layer of bandages that she calculated should not be taken off for two weeks. Later, the pain attacked, of course, that hint of something's going wrong beneath the skin. Perhaps the diamond would grow inside her. Had she dreamed she heard it crying?

She had reflected for a second as the metalic edge caught the distant fire in the heavens; it was that time of day when a lonely room turns to gold, but the flickering desire to stop her hand faded against the starched clouds that rustled across the outside of her window, a curtain of glass through which that momentary ray had slipped into her hazed vision.

Before, on her way home in the bleached afternoon, she had been thinking about the diamond. It gave her comfort to think about it. Raising her eyes heavenward, she sensed the sky's folding down like a stack of laundered sheets covering the puffy spruces. The entire day's mood had made her think of biscuits rising. Now it was night.

She pulled her patched dress down over the bandages and turned on the one uncovered light bulb that dropped like a spider from the chalky ceiling; that morning she had imagined the snow was crawling down across the sky, back and forth, back and forth, in geometric indifference.

No room remained on the table to stretch the white, flat dough. Magazines and music scores were piled everywhere and left to settle in their serenity. A cluster of white grapes floated quietly upon a page of Mendelssohn. A book of Bach inventions stood folded like angel wings to mark a place.

She put up the wooden ironing board while the light in the room revealed atoms of flour suspended in the air. There was plenty of space on the ironing board to make scones, she mused. But she never made anything.

It was time for him to come home now. She waited by the window and listened through the drawn shade, but no sound of approaching feet caressed her ears. He would ask to see the diamond, she told herself. But she would say that the diamond was no more to be seen—no more to be seen in the way he had always viewed it before.

Now he would have to see its beauty in her. Now he would have to look at her. She would make him understand that she and the diamond were one. It would move inside her and travel up to her eyes where he could find it, radiant and looking out at him, holding his gaze in solemn mystery.

She waited all night but he never came; then she went out again in the morning to the place where she washed clothes in a back room. She had lost her sense of time, of mornings and nights. Beads of moments to her were like the swift trails of soap bubbles on the floor. The years of her life were clusters of minutes, broken fragments spread across an eternity of sorrow.

That night she had the strong impression that maybe he would be moved to laugh joyously if she took the diamond out, and brought it to him. She remembered the night he had taken it for her. He had said to her, "Give me those baby things. You ought not to look at them any more, the way you sit and stare and fold the little blanket again and again."

She knew then, of course, that he had been right. They would never use that little blanket now. They would never use any of those small things now. He had told her, "Here, look at this that I brought you. Look at this and give me those other things."

She remembered that his hand was bleeding where the broken glass had cut it when he removed the diamond. He had been out of breath, so she wrapped the little white blanket around his bleeding hand, and he departed, into the stolen night. Her gray hair disturbed the dusty air as she shook these thoughts out of her head. Had her treasury of images been hours, days, years? She could not tell.

Then, in one desperate decisive act she began clearing the tiny room, straightening rows of old magazines that should have been discarded decades ago, when, unexpectedly, out of a sealed stack of disheveled papers, crept a small, water-stained book. It fell to the ground with a resounding thud louder than its weight should support. The Gospel According to John. She knelt to pick it up.

Then she arose, went to the window and raised the shade. No light filtered through the cloudy squares of glass, but the ecstatic dawn was an hour away.


Copyright © 1977, 2007 by Robert E. Romanelli PhD