I want to go to Burma

I want to go to Burma.

I want to be sold a ruby in Burma.

I want to be told how miners delved deep into the earth for it and how they bravely smuggled it past authorities who were screening for export quality gems.I want to be told how the ruby was hidden from the government because the miner who found it wanted to give it to the girl he wanted to marry, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have enough money for a dowry, even though they loved each other dearly. My tears would flow just at hearing that.

And then I would be told that the girl’s other suitor was a rich old man who could give ten dowries without breaking a sweat. Except that he didn’t want to give a dowry because he knew that the girl’s family was so poor that they practically had no choice in the matter. Marrying off their only daughter to a rich man would bring more rewards, after all, in the long run. Except of course that the daughter would be condemned to a lifetime of unhappiness. Her rich suitor was not known for his faithfulness to women.

I want to be told how the ruby got a lot of attention from the other miners and when they found out that it wasn’t shown to the authorities, one of them had told their supervisors about the miner who hid the ruby. The miner was then forced to run! And run he did, right into Thailand where he was beset by bandits. Thankfully, he had hidden the crystal in his shoe. When the bandits abandoned him for dead, he was found by some villagers who lived nearby. He was taken in and entrusted to the care of the village healer who immediately noticed that, apart from the wounds and bruises all over his body, he seemed also to be bleeding from his foot – his shoes were soaked in blood.

The healer gingerly removed the shoe and out tumbled the ruby whose jagged edges had crisscrossed the man’s foot with cuts. Without a word, the healer took the crystal and wrapped it in a clean linen and hid it away in her box of herbs.

The miner was tended to by the healer’s daughter. Night and day, she stayed by the miner’s side, and with each passing minute, fell more and more deeply in love with the unconscious stranger.

On the third day, the miner awoke and realized that his feet were bare. He panicked and tried to rise, but the healer’s daughter gently pushed him back down on the pallet where he had spent the last three days. Hearing the commotion, the healer entered and understood right away. After shutting the windows of her hut, she retrieved the ruby and handed it back to the miner.

That night, the healer’s daughter admitted her love for the miner, and he admitted his love for another. Distraught, the healer’s daughter fled his side and disappeared into the nearby jungle. Fearful of the healer’s anger, the man quietly dressed and slipped away into the darkness as well, making his way to another village where he knew a jeweller who would be able to polish the ruby he had smuggled from the mine.

Cut and polished, the ruby would catch the light in its crystal depths and put out the supernatural glow that marked it a true Burmese ruby.

Three weeks after escaping from the mine, the miner now returned home.

From a distance, he saw that his village was decorated with all the unmistakable signs of a big wedding. Banners fluttered in the wind, children ran everywhere, playing instead of working the fields, and on the air wafted the strains of music. His heart getting heavier with every step, he ran towards the home of the girl he wanted to marry, only to find that that was where the music was coming from.

In the courtyard in front of the girl’s home, a bright multi-colored tent had been erected under which people – dressed in their wedding finery – were crowded, noisily sharing food and drink. And in the middle of them all, on a raised platform, sat his love and the rich old man. He could not believe his eyes. The wedding was not supposed to take place until the full moon, a whole week away, and yet there she was, his love, about to be married to a man she despised.

Frantically, his eyes searched the crowd and, just behind the dais, he spotted her. The healer’s daughter.

At that exact moment, their eyes met, and he knew that he had been betrayed. The healer’s daughter opened her mouth and her arm flew up, an accusing finger pointing in his direction. Out of the corners of his eyes, the miner saw armed guards moving towards him.

Acting purely on instinct, he elbowed his way through the crush of people who, up to that point, still had no idea what was going on. He jumped up on the raised platform, startling the rich old man and eliciting from his love an exclamation of recognition. He could tell that she had been crying. He grabbed her arm and tried to get her off the stage.

A loud explosion of sound filled the the tent, followed almost immediately by a collective scream wrenched from the throats of the throng. On the platform, the miner fell, crimson blooming across the back of his shirt. He fell forward and off the platform and into the lap of his lover’s mother.

“Mother,” he said, gasping for breath even as his life was leaving him. “I’ve brought the dowry.”

I want to be told that, in the confusion, no one saw him pressing the ruby into the startled woman’s hand; that no one saw the understanding that crossed the woman’s eyes when she felt her fingers closing around the cold and oily gem; that no one saw the miner’s lover and her mother lock eyes in that instant of his death.

I want to be told that the girl quietly reach for the dinner knife laid out on the table before her and slip it determinedly into her body, just under the ribs, angled upwards to pierce her heart – a betrothal promise fulfilled, a wedding vow honored.

I want to hold that ruby in my hand and feel the weight of true love.

I want to go to Burma.