It goes with me everywhere. I wear it when naked or at my most dressed-up; if it will actively clash with my outfit I’ll swap it until the moment I’m home, when I’ll put it back on with the same relief that other women feel when taking off their bras or high heels after a long night. It has been to Rome, Skye, Seville, Ann Arbor, Kiev; even south London. It has swum in the Baltic and the Adriatic; walked Hadrian’s wall; sat in front of thousands of readers, from California to Moscow; stood on the wobbly pine roof of an ancient stone tower in the Georgian mountains, listening for bears. It has endured surgery, childbirth, heartache, joy, and the painful genesis of every book I’ve written. It’s frequently covered in dough or soil; when it’s clean, I often distractedly taste it. It is my witness, my guardian, my charm, my strength.
It’s just a bangle; hollow, perhaps five millimetres wide, perfectly plain. My grandmother, my hero, bought it for me two decades ago, in Egypt. She was in her Seventies when she decided to see the pyramids, so she went alone. I have one photograph of her, slightly bashful, the scale unimpressive, but she did it, she went, with money she had earned and courage she was born with. She’d survived the Nazis; a coach trip didn’t frighten her. She didn’t know that I’d wear it every day, as my right arm acquired grill-burns and gardening scars and even more freckles.
But it’s hollow. It will grow thin; a hole is not inconceivable. I check it, worry at it, eroding its atoms, bringing its end closer. Silver is strong, but is it strong enough to last? Am I?
Charlotte Mendelson’s most recent novel, Almost English, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. When We Were Bad was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, Daughters of Jerusalem, won both the Somerset Maugham Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award. Rhapsody in Green, her memoir of gardening obsession, was published in September 2016.