Under halogen lights in the glass showcase, there is a pure gold ring with three large rose-cut diamonds. The center stone, slightly bigger, is unique in beauty, clarity and fire.
The heavy black lace-up boots are dusty and worn. I must be a man. That is who would wear boots like these. The boots are side-by-side on a rough-hewn, gritty wooden floor as dark as bronze. I can see them from about six feet above. I must be standing up, and fairly tall. I am in the box car of a train, and the walls are made of horizontal planks once stained brick red. Now they are dulled with age, filth and abuse. Chinks of harsh light shine through the planks; not warm and yellow, but cold and gray. There is a rectangle of light as big as a bed sheet, on the floor. The huge sliding door on the side of the box car is open. It has been that way all along. I am alone. I have been that way all along.
Now outside, I am standing in front of a crowd of at least a dozen peasant men. I don't feel at one with them. They wear baggy, drab olive and gray clothing frayed at the edges. Some have woolen caps in charcoal or dark blue, full beards and the same heavy lace-up boots. I am frightened by them, but they accept me. Not as an equal to them, but to observe and participate with their group. Their dark eyes beneath thick brows are stormy with anger and desperation, but convey what they think of me in a split second; I have something. I have charisma. But I have left everything behind, except for the brown leather haversack that hangs from my shoulder. Right hand feels the solid strap.
I am wearing the same dusty, drab, olive clothes as the rebels. They are all Jewish. I am a Jew. I think I am about thirty-five years old, and they all look much older. As we stand together outside, I see that we are in a train yard of long ago. The men are working out a plan, and include me in the execution of it. The Nazis are going to kill them all anyway. As the armed motorcade roars into the yard from the assembly position in the distance, which is perpendicular to the train tracks, the men will push two lines of box cars; one from either direction. The murderer's automobiles will be demolished in the middle. I will be part of the execution of the murderers. I see them not far off in the distance. They wear dark uniforms. They are many. They are going to come.
The motorcade is racing. The box cars are rolling. The first line misses the target. The second line intersects with evil. There is a terrible crash. I feel the boots beneath me vibrate. There is pandemonium.
I am standing in front of a Nazi officer. He is of high rank and wears a spotless brass-buttoned coat and a hat with black patent leather brim and band. His face is pale and smooth. His eyes are slits. He wants me. I am handsome. His intentions are perversion.
He offers me the option of escaping the impending massacre, in lieu of one of a different kind, alone with him later on. The rail yard is in a valley. He will pick me up in his car, on the road that follows the hills above the low land to the North. I take a chance.
The gray gravel of the yard blurs beneath my boots as I run North. At the edge of the yard is a fence. I vault it. The haversack thumps heavily against my back. My legs are locomotives speeding along a jasper-colored dirt path with soft green grass covering a wide dell on either side. I don't know how long it has been, but I am still running when I see an open black Nazi touring car driving the hills above this place. I continue on.
The path ends where the valley rises to a brush-tangled berm. At the top is the edge of a small city. It is a Polish city. I am in Poland, in a deserted city. This is a Gentile city, where people have been relegated to house-arrest, but not to death. Walking the streets it is as if time has been frozen. Pushcarts are abandoned, dust blows across cobblestones.
Ahead is a jasper-colored brick Bauhaus apartment building. It has wide balconies layered up the front side facing the street. There is no sound from the empty pavement, but glancing up, I see two women. They are boldly sitting outside on a balcony. One of the women wears a brightly patterned silk dressing gown. She has been watching me, and as she gets up with her companion, becons me with her eyes to follow. They both disappear into the shadows of the interior. I take a chance.
The narrow arched entry from the street reveals a courtyard with ornate iron-railed walkways on each floor. I don't know where the women have retreated. I look up. I feel the chill of air on my face.
I am in an apartment very crowded with people in hiding. It is a large family. There is a very young man with ashe-blond hair. He looks at me. He loves me. I am lovable. He tells me plainly, "You are the one I am going to marry." I am shocked. I have never considered the possibility of marrying a man and spending my life with him. I am way too old for him. He doesn't care about any of that. I look at him. He is offering me a chance. A chance for a life. A possibility I'd never considered. To be with him. It feels right.
He goes off briefly, and brings back his father. His father is a strong man in every way, and because of this strength, puts his astonishment aside and conveys a blessing to his son. To us both. I explain to the young man that because of our circumstances, I will have to wait for him. I reach into the haversack and extract a velvet pouch. I offer him the gold pocket watch from within the pouch as a token of our betrothal.
He is less impressed with the gold watch than he is with my gesture. I am admirable. I explain that it is the watch which is the most valuable thing left in my possession; the only thing of any worth. I point out the large rose-cut diamond set into the crown of the watch. It is unique in character, depth and brilliance.
He accepts the watch, but his eyes never stray from me.
I have bought the pure gold ring with the three large rose-cut diamonds. I gave it away. I know where the center stone came from, but not the two flanking it.
And I am still waiting.