I cannot recall where or when or how I had first gotten the giant blue sapphire. Of course, even at five years, I knew it might not be a real sapphire; at least, that’s what my parents insisted. They called it “just glass.”
But, they might just possibly be wrong. After all, I could look into it forever. And, if I looked real hard, I could see the dim, midnight blue outline of things beyond and through the stone, transformed by the magic of the stone into something quite out of the ordinary; something heavenly, mysterious.
So far as I could tell, my parents never actually saw the stone; certainly they never looked through it. They’d just glance at it and say, “Oh, yeah, it’s blue glass.” Well, it seemed to me that it must be a real sapphire. Besides making things look beautiful, there was something else — something mom and dad never even tried to understand. It was this. If something happened I didn’t like; if I were sad because my dog was “put to sleep” or scared of getting a shot, I could look at this sapphire and it made me feel better! It made it all: Okay. If I listened carefully, it spoke words of wisdom and comfort. It was obviously worth a lot more than my parents knew.
True, there was a tiny chunk broken out of one corner. But that didn’t really matter. The stone was still perfect. Perfect, something to be kept forever.
Forever, that is, until Jimmy moved next door. Jimmy was ten years old and had a two wheel bike. Jimmy towered up nearly as thick and high as an adult. But Jimmy was still young enough to see the powerful magic in the sapphire. One bright Saturday morning, on the green grass of the “devil strip” between the white sidewalk and the forbidden black street where the deadly cars zoomed, I sat in the grass watching the magic sapphire, listening for its words of wisdom. Jimmy came and plopped down beside me. He flashed the red reflector from his bike in the sunlight. Oh, how it sparkled into my eyes!
“Do you want this ruby?” asked Jimmy innocently.
“Oh! Okay. Thanks!”
Jimmy handed it to me and let me flash it in the sun. It was so much brighter than the sapphire! It sparkled fire!
“Great,” said Jimmy, “Let me have the sapphire.” He snatched it from the grass where I had lain it, jumped up and ran into his house.
I stared dumbly at the huge shut door, then back down at the red reflector in my hand. Maybe this was a good trade after all, I thought. It was really bright all right. And when you moved it in the sun, it made different starburst patterns. After all, it had come from a full-sized two-wheeler. But still…something was missing. Then, a buzzing filled my ears. I suddenly realized that the reflector was just pretty glass! There was no magic to it. It didn’t speak; it just buzzed its foolish empty buzz. I couldn’t look through it to other things. It had no depth. And worst of all, it could never make anyone feel better, not even a little bit. “I thought you meant…for a minute…” I mumbled to the big kid behind the thick wooden door.
I considered telling my mom and dad. Maybe they could get the sapphire back! I hated telling them. You just don’t tell parents about kid troubles; it’s against the main unwritten law of being a kid. But maybe they could get my sapphire back! When I finally told them what had happened, they said, “Well, you made a trade.” I tried to get Jimmy to trade back, but he had none of it. Jimmy soon moved away, never to be seen again. But I kept the red reflector — not to look at because that would seem somehow unfaithful to the spirit of the sapphire — but just in case Jimmy came by one day wanting to trade back.
And later, much later, I used my allowance to buy special clear marbles — called “Peeries” — emerald green and dark blue with bubbles in them, and my dad got me a cool science kit with a clear rainbow prism that threw color into everything, and then one day I looked into the deep, sparking blue eyes of a blond girl named Jennifer and later into the sparkling blue eyes of a beautiful woman named Wendy and then into real diamonds and computer screens and experimental results and statistical analyses and conclusions, insights, and science fiction.
All of those things were good and all of these spoke to me.
But I still wonder where the blue sapphire is and how to get it back. How to get it back? The magic. Not clever illusion; not something made to look nice; but true and actual magic.
Are you out there, Jimmy? Because I still have your red reflector if you want to trade back.
(This story first appeared summer 1997 in the e-zine, The Empty Shelf. Somehow, it seemed apropos to today).