When Alan loved me, his love wrapped around me like velvet; tender, caressing, sensual. I moved through the world as if I were always enfolded in the black velvet cape he gave me for my 50th birthday.
He remained infatuated with me at the time of this birthday. After knowing each other for 20 years, he still beamed like a boy as I pushed aside the white tissue paper and unfolded the long, hooded cape from its box. He knew me well, knew I’d be delighted with this gift. Still, I could see in his eyes that bit of doubt. “Maybe she won’t like it, maybe it’s all wrong,” he was thinking.
I threw it over my shoulders, pulled the hood over my head, admired myself in the mirror as I stroked the soft fabric, then twirled to enjoy the feel of it billowing out around me. I looked at him, at the happiness in his eyes now that he was sure of my pleasure at his gift.
Perfection. My 50th birthday was perfect.
The next fall he came home from work carrying a small shopping bag. I’d gotten home before him, and when I greeted him at the door his face split wide open in a smile.
He reached into the bag and pulled out two small tissue paper bundles. I broke the tape on the first package, opened up the tissue and uncovered a pair of long black gloves, the kind that came up over my elbows.
“For Saturday night,” he said.
Saturday night was the opening performance of the opera season. We would be joining two other couples for dinner, then promenading down the street to the theater. The men were going to wear their tuxedoes. I had a new, sleeveless, floor-length dress to go under my black velvet cape.
Alan had decided I needed gloves to make my outfit perfect. He was right.
I broke open the tape on the second package, and parted the tissue to reveal a pair of short, black, velvet gloves.
“They’re so pretty,” Alan said. “I wasn’t sure, maybe short gloves would be better. I decided to buy both pairs.”
The simple act of pulling on these gloves transformed
me into a delicate, refined lady. Only such a woman could be worthy of those gloves and of the love that prompted their purchase.
First, I lost the love.
Then, I lost one of the gloves.
My vanity did me in.
For this date with Chet on an autumn evening (see The Poetry of Seduction), I wore slim, light-weight black trousers. No pockets in these pants to disturb their fluid drape from my waist to ankles. Tucked into the pants was a crisp cotton blouse. Topping that was a short, black, suede jacket, nipped in at the waist. No pockets in that either, nothing to create unsightly bulk. Slung over my shoulders was the tiniest of handbags; big enough for my keys, lipstick and credit cards. Nothing I wore that night would be allowed to disrupt the impression of willowy slimness.
The last touch was the black velvet gloves with the roses and beads. Although I was no longer the woman who walked through the world wrapped in the velvet of her husband’s love, slipping on those gloves stirred my memories of how it felt to be her.
At some point in the evening I decided the air was too warm to wear the gloves. With no pockets and no purse in which to stuff them, I carried them. It wasn’t until I climbed into Chet’s car after our walk that I noticed I was holding only one glove.
I had lost one of the perfect gloves with the velvet roses and black glass beads.
My father always said crying accomplishes nothing. Even though I believed pretty much everything he told me, I was close to tears that night in Chet’s car. I said to him, “I’ve lost my glove.”
He had no idea what that statement meant to me. But he heard the distress in my voice, turned on the overhead lights and looked over, under and around every interior inch of his vehicle.
He turned on the headlights, got out a flashlight and prowled around the car. He even backtracked over some of our walk around the lake.
I wonder where I lost it. Even as I write these words, months later, I close my eyes and imagine my beautiful glove lying on the path, or on the grass by the edge of the lake, or under a tree.
I wonder if anyone found it and pondered how such a delicate glove was lost.
I also wonder why these gloves are so laden with meaning for me and why this loss still grieves me.
I didn’t feel that way about my wedding band when I sold it for a mere pittance to a gold dealer. That was a symbolic act.
Before our wedding, I told Alan, “No diamonds for me. Those rings are status symbols. I want a simple ring of gold, like the simplicity and eternal nature of our love.”
I meant it.
I always felt that way when I’d look at the band on my left hand. So, when simplicity unraveled into complexity and eternity came to a sudden end, I rid myself of the tarnished symbol.
But the gloves, those beautiful gloves, reminded me that love was once real for me. They gave me hope that it could be real again, some day.
One glove, a black glove, sitting on the shelf of my coat closet, under a pile of leather and suede gloves and wool mittens, can’t do that for me. Yet, I can’t throw it out. There it sits.