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The Braided Belt
A man learns about love and its loss one summer.
Michael Lowell is a pseudonym for an up-and-coming writer of short stories. He is currently working on new short stories focused on the male perspective in relationships and an action adventure novel.
The Braided Belt
On the belt rack in my clothes closet, on the last hook, back behind all my other belts, is a braided leather belt.
I bought this belt on Labor Day of 1972. I know this so clearly because the day before
I had parted with the first woman I loved.
I bought this belt at an artisan’s table on the US Capitol Mall, near the Lincoln Memorial.
It attracted me instantly. I bought it with the spontaneity her love had
brought into my life. It was a gift of recompense for lost love.
I look at this belt again, and see that it is scuffed in many places, but the leather is still supple.
This belt has survived while many others have disintegrated. For the first time I
marvel at its design. Eight inches from the buckle, it is two inch wide solid leather.
Then, it melds into two strands braided together. The intertwined strands run the length, except
for ten inches at the other end.
Memories of the days before I bought it suffuse every part of my body.
I fill my lungs with all the air in the room, intoxicated.
My heart pounds in my ears. It had been a summer of deep breaths and
palpitations. We had been introduced by mutual friends, and we became friends at their wedding reception.
We dated, talked, dated, talked and were inexorably, magically drawn to each other.
She embodied the gift of her Italian heritage, living the words “non far
niente,” -- relax, take it easy, don’t sweat it. Her acceptance and encouragement reached the dark
depression of childhood deep inside me where love and trust had been hiding and
But it had to end, of course. Before we met, she had been living with another
man. Early on she told me she was committed to going back with him when school began.
I didn’t believe that could happen. I don’t know if she did. I do
know she had some regret in not choosing me, an old demon deep inside impelling
her to deny herself true love – with me.
It helps me to believe that. We parted on the Sunday before Labor Day.
Almost immediately, my feelings of trust – of loving and being loved – all but disappeared.
It all seemed an impossible dream, an illusion. I could not even feel loss and
anger before I was pulled back to the safety of numbness.
It’s only with the perspective of time that I am wrenched by the loss. I know now that I was choking on grief and
rage wrapped under a cloak of ennui. Now I rage and grieve at not being able to rage and grieve 33 years ago.
I know now my rage is a siren, a warning, a call to action, a way back, and a way forward.
I know this only because I have now chosen to listen.
I take the braided belt from the rack. I rip off the belt I am
wearing. It thawps against my side as it slithers through the belt loops. I thread
the braided belt around my middle. It fits.
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© 2005 Michael Lowell
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