Keeping the Pearls

by Renée Olander

Those two creamy strands, their vague yellow tint increasing the value of the oyster’s irritation, cost an outrageous thousand bucks in the early eighties when my ex and I were living on Campbell’s soup and he had to break our deal about not blowing more than fifty dollars on each other for Christmas.  I was pissed off Christmas morning after he told me what they’d cost.  I’d opened one strand, then the other, the first stuffed in my stocking, the second under the tree.  He just wanted to give his wife a pearl necklace, a joke he made at parties when I was too stupid to understand why his buddies chuckled.  Two strands? was my question, and he explained that the saleslady said the two matched perfectly, a very rare thing.  Don’t worry about it, he said, but I knew that whatever I didn’t know about his money was worse than I thought.  Can you believe he wanted me to count the pearls toward my part of our marital estate?  He said, You have those pearls I’ll take this and that.  I was like, YOU take the pearls hock ’em, or wear ’em they’ll look great on you.  I never wanted a damn pearl necklace in the first place.  Then he backed down.  I used to think I’d sell them but they’ve grown on me.  Sometimes I wear just one, sometimes I latch them together and tie them in a knot the very thing he told me would weaken the strands and I bite on them, I like to feel the just under the surface roughness against my teeth, a sign they’re real.  After wearing them all day I take them off and hold them in my hands awhile I like how pearls hold a body’s residual heat.