The Opal Necklace
I struggled to hook the clasp, when the delicate gold chain broke and the small opal pendant fell into my hands. Once again I felt the unexpected suddenness that brought the necklace to me 25 years ago.
I lived in Southern California at the time. My furnace had stopped working, and I needed to find a repair man. I ran my finger down the yellow pages and picked someone to look at it when I’d be off work on Saturday morning.
“Hi, I’m here to fix your furnace,” the lean man said. He lifted his head slightly, and a thin smile brushed over his lips. I saw the blankness in his eyes and turned away, wondering if I had made a mistake and would get ripped off by this stranger.
I led him to the closet which sheltered the furnace. He carefully settled his tool bucket on the floor and removed the front panel.
Having no need to talk, I burrowed into the couch with a book, picking up where I had left off. He finished, moved quietly into the living room, and said, “I’ll pack my tools in the truck and bring the bill.”
When he returned, I was waiting at the dining room table with my check book. He pulled up a chair and slid the bill across the table. “You can make it out to Timothy Weeks.”
I handed him the check. “You shouldn’t have any trouble with the furnace now. I replaced a small part, a valve, and it should run good as new.”
“Thanks, Timothy, I appreciate it.”
“If you do have problems, I won’t likely be here. I’m planning to move to Oregon. It’s cheaper to live there. Beautiful woods, streams. I can hunt, fish.”
He sucked in a steadying breath and said, “My wife doesn’t want to go.”
Not wanting to hear this, I let the words float through me. “I hope you work things out. Life presents us with some hard choices, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, mam, it does. Never thought I’d be facing this one. Rita and I were happy when we got married and planned a family. Now seems like splinters get in our way.”
“Thanks, again, Timothy for fixing my furnace.” I was ready for him to leave. “I hope you fix your marriage, too.”
He went out the door, hesitated, and turned around. “I’m working on a piece of jewelry. Helps to keep me calm. If I finish it before I go, can I give it to you?”
If I said yes, would he think I was interested in him? If I said no, would I deepen the wound in his heart? I said, “Yes,” thinking I wouldn’t hear from him anyhow. I grabbed my tote and bolted to the beach, determined to catch some sun before Monday rolled around.
He called a month or so later. “Hi, this is Tim Weeks. I’ve finished the necklace. Can I bring it over Sunday morning? Around 10?”
I felt cornered. Oh, God, I thought: now the other shoe is going to drop; this young man is going to hit on me or expect me to be his mother. Why didn’t I just say no? I said, “OK.”
I was edgy when I opened the door. Tim shifted from foot to foot, like he was going to take off any second. He gentled the necklace onto the table – two imperfectly hammered circles of gold surrounding a blue milky stone, subtly penetrated by black wiry lines. The morning sunlight reflected back the deep opalescence of the gem.
“It’s from Australia,” he said. “Thank you for listening. Gave me hope.”
“Oh, you’ve worked everything out? You’re staying?”
“No,” he said, his voice choking. “I’m heading out right now – without my family.”
I was relieved that the other shoe had fallen without having to hit him with it, stunned by the unequal exchange: polite kindness for a glimpse into a razor-scribed soul.
“Thanks for the gift, Tim. I’m sorry things didn’t work out. Good luck in Oregon.”
He slipped out the door. I stared into the unfathomable abyss of the opal I held in my hand.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
My friend Martha, a nominee for homecoming queen, and I were walking down the hallway when a high school teacher stopped us and said, “Beauty is only skin deep.” I was conundrum-struck.
Some sixty years later, I’ve gained understanding about the many faces of beauty. To paraphrase Lao-tsu, beauty that can be named is not the eternal beauty. Beauty goes beyond the physical form, penetrating deeply into the world of spirit. When we reach toward that immaterial world, we seek divine possibilities. In turn, the spiritual realm inspires us to create beauty in our mundane world.
Beauty offers relationships. We often compare our vision with the ideal, the perfect expression of art in its broadest applications: a well-crafted political speech, a sweeping concerto, an evocative painting, a tender poem, an elegant mathematical theorem, or a zesty key lime pie.
There is much in our everyday world that is not beautiful. That’s when we must lift our eyes to the soul that sees, knows the essence of beauty: kindness, courage, love, truth, joy, and wisdom. These seemingly simple concepts are hard to actualize when we are pulled by the forces of the personality that dwell in the material world.
Forms, like a tiny quivering fern, a sparkling piece of blown glass, a sensuous theatrical production, or the sleek body of a cheetah stimulate creativity. More so, the ensouled energy behind form invites us to experience beauty in its sublimest moments. Our breath is taken away, we are imperceptibly still, one with the cosmos.
In The Opal Necklace, the characters are challenged to plumb the abyss of relationships, and on some small, mostly unspoken level, they do. They both know that without the beauty of human contact, we wither, we die.
Fay L. Loomis, a nemophilist (haunter of the woods, one who loves the forest, its beauty, and its solitude), lives in upstate New York. An active member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers, her poems, flash fiction, and articles have appeared in print and online publications, including The Beacon, Soul-Lit, Pan’s Shadow, Twisted Endings, Healing Power of the Imagination Journal, Halcyon Days, and A Quiet Courage.