Most people are familiar with Red Hook, a waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn, because it’s the home of New York City’s only IKEA. It also features a huge Fairway supermarket with a parking lot, something akin to a mythical creature in New York City terms. But don’t confuse the presence of these large stores as evidence that Red Hook is suburban–it’s anything but. Only accessible by bus, ferry, and foot, Red Hook is usually only visited by IKEA shoppers. However, it boasts a great view of the Statue of Liberty, a lovely park and fishing pier, superior key lime pie, a gorgeous antique shop, a distillery, a dive bar where local musicians gather to play bluegrass music every Saturday night, and some of my most favorite restaurants in New York.
Red Hook is a quirky place, one I loved to visit. Luckily, Carroll Gardens, where I lived, was about a 15 minute walk from Red Hook, so I was a frequent visitor. Out behind the Fairway, by the water, three old street cars sat rusting on a few feet of track. They were weird and sort of creepy, but they embodied, to me, the strange wonder of Red Hook. In fact, I loved Red Hook so much that I opted to have engagement photos taken there just a couple of months before my wedding. Obviously, quirky old streetcars are a wedding photographer’s wet dream, so we took many shots there, leaning against the rusting metal, hot from the sun, looking lovingly into one another’s eyes as the photographer told us to angle our bodies differently, change the position of our hands.
A few days ago, a developer had the trolleys carted away, sent to a transit museum in Connecticut. Somehow, seeing this news struck me like a punch in the stomach. Of course, there have been many signs and side effects of my marriage being over. But somehow, the trolleys disappearance, their being sent away, disposed of, seemed to be some kind of direct symbol of the dissolution of our marriage.
Every morning now, I look down at my right hand, where I still wear my engagement ring, a gorgeous vintage diamond and sapphire ring from that antique jeweler in Red Hook. I took off my wedding band months ago, tucked it away in a box. But this ring, this is the ring I truly love. I tell myself I wear it because it’s beautiful, because I like the way it sparkles, because I like the way it’s just a tiny bit too big and slides around my finger. But lately, I wonder if it’s better to part with it, at least to put it back in the tiny antique box it came in. Because even though it’s a beautiful ring, it’s more than just jewelry, and I can’t ignore the emotional significance, the weight of continuing to wear something that so strongly reminds me of the life I thought I would have, the life I did have for a short time. I know there will come a day when I slip it off my finger for good. And I will still be whole.
Maybe it’s silly to give this power to objects. But sometimes, in the end, the things are all we have.
*image via New York Daily News