I’ve been looking at rings. I’ve been looking at rings because I want to see one that looks like the ring Natalya gave me. I want to have one like that again. I want to wear it.

I know this means actually a few things are going on at once. The images of similar rings are triggering related emotional and sensory memories and I’m processing them a bit, or trying to. Kind of in the background.

And I’m trying to weigh how I actually feel. I’m trying to notice my emotional response to what I’m seeing. What does looking at rings mean to me? What did having a ring mean to me then and what would it mean to me now if I had one?

I’m shopping online and it’s a dizzyingly complex process.

A part of me looks at them and feels allowed to exist for the first time. This part says to herself, in a sense, I am allowed to have the things that have meaning for me continue to be a part of my life, to be expressed in some way to someone—at the very least, to myself. My experiences and my feelings matter enough to take some sort of action on. And it is very much a new feeling, a raw feeling. It is the feeling of leaving captivity.

I am allowed to feel things. I am allowed to have some things matter to me. I am allowed to have some things matter a great deal to me. I am allowed to remember and to mourn. I am allowed to have as a part of my life memorials to my losses and not just absences. I am allowed the same things other people are even if my life has been well away from the median experience.

It is a very, very new feeling and it makes me cry a lot.

We want to a ring like that again. We want to wear it again. We want to do that in part because I will always be married to Nata. It is not quite the same as other relationships, for a lot of reasons, and it is absolutely at the core of myself and my life. Our relationship is the safe place inside where everything will always be okay. And the ring is an acknowledgement to myself of that.

That acknoweldgement undoes some things, some things I did to myself that hurt me. It says that place within me where I am safe does not need to be dismantled. I do not need to live in it alone. I do not have to remove the cheering section.

That’s only one bit.

It reminds me of something else too. From what I remember, proposing to me was the most emphatic statement Natalya could make to me that I mattered to her. It was the most profound way to say I want to support you in what you do in life, I want to be there to give you encouragement, I want to clean your wounds when you have them, I want to hold you when you are sad, I want to be your cheering section, and more than anything I want to know what life is like for you. Always.

The ring is a reminder of that. It’s a symbol. I mattered to her and she mattered in the same way to me.

But I had to take the ring off. It’s something else I slipped into my pocket or my hand or even my bra and smuggled it back and forth from my own house, where I hid it until the next time I saw her.

A lot of teenagers do things they keep hidden from their parents, but my need to hide her gesture reminded me of captivity. It is not my body. It is not my hand. I do not have the right to put on it whatever I feel like. I can only do it when no one happens to be looking or cares. In my own home, someone is always looking, someone is always inspecting, and someone always cares what I do enough to want to control it.

A ring I do not need to take off reminds me I have left that condition of captivity. It reminds me that is my hand, this is my body, and I can put on it whatever I feel like.