Over the past decade, my British wife may have mentioned (three or four hundred times) that one day, she would like to have a ring with a square diamond.
"Not right away, Charlie," she always assured me. "Some time down the line."
She meant it. Kim is not a grabby person or a big consumer. She appreciates whatever she has, and when she says "down the line," she means it.
But as you get older, you start attending more and more funerals and you realize that nobody knows how long that damn line is, and that it can come to an abrupt end.
Speaking of abrupt: out of the blue, just days before I was due to fly to England to see my wife, I got an e-mail from my agent informing me that I had a royalty check coming for my novel Raising Jake.
For the first time in as long as I could remember, I'd have a few extra bucks.
Sure enough, the royalty check cleared on the day I was to fly to London. Kim's birthday is at the end of this month.
At long last, I was undeniably down the line. Diamond time was here.
Where to begin? All I ever buy is food and soap. Diamonds were a total mystery, and besides that, the clock was running -- I had about three hours to buy the ring before I had to be at JFK.
So I turned to my Inside Edition colleague, Lauren Mensch, for a little help before heading for the Diamond District on 47th Street, which features some of the world's most aggressive salesmen.
Lauren gave me a crash course on size, color, and shapes. I took notes as if I were cramming for the Regents.
"The most important thing," Lauren said, "is the walk-away price."
"Walk away as if you're not interested. If they think you're leaving, they drop the price."
I went to the bank, withdrew a stack of Ben Franklins and headed to 47th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Nothing but jewelry stores, wherever you looked.
I entered one shop and told the salesman what I had in mind. He pulled out a ring with a square diamond. It was a little flashy, not what I had in mind.
"Beautiful ring," he informed me. "Eleven hundred and fifty."
"I'm not sure it's her style."
"How about nine hundred?"
I was stunned. "I gotta bring her here to look at it," I lied, taking a step away.
"Seven hundred! Six hundred!"
Each step I took toward the door spelled another hundred dollar discount. At this rate, he'd be paying me to take the ring by the time I reached the sidewalk.
I tried a few more shops. I was dizzy from wheeling, dealing and walking away. Nothing looked or felt right. The ring with the square diamond would have to happen a little farther down the line.
"May I help you?"
Somehow, I'd stumbled into yet another jewelry shop, if only to catch a little air conditioning. I told the woman behind the counter what I wanted. She took a square diamond out of a safe, then showed me the white gold setting that would go with it.
I trusted her, for whatever reason your gut tells you to trust someone. I laid a stack of Franklins on her, and just like that, the deal was done.
"Come back in half an hour and it will be ready," she said.
I walked around the block, went into a Five Guys and ordered a side of fries and a Cherry Coke. The guy told me what I owed him and I took a few steps back from the cash register.
"Hey, where you goin', man?"
"Sorry," I said. "Force of habit." No walk-away price on french fries. Must remember that.
I gobbled the fries, picked up the ring, raced home, grabbed my bags and headed for JFK.
On the flight to Heathrow I thought about how great it would be to give Kim the ring on her birthday, twenty days from now.
Then I started thinking about it. That diamond in my carry-on bag had taken thousands, maybe millions of years to form. Then it took who knows how long for it to be mined, cut and polished.
So basically it had gone from the mine to the safe on 47th Street, existing in darkness the whole while. Why subject that poor diamond to another three weeks of darkness? And why make Kim wait for a diamond that would still exist long after the two of us were gone?
The hell with that. Time is the only real wealth. The diamond taught me that.
Kim picked me up at the airport and took me home. She made us coffee, and when she came to the table with the cups, the blue jewelry box with the white ribbon was in front of her.
She was puzzled. "What is this?"
"Is this a joke?"
She opened it. Her eyes filled with tears. She slipped the ring on her finger. She was speechless, and believe me, this is not a woman given to speechlessness.
When her powers of speech resumed (about ten seconds later) she announced: "I'm going to take off everything I'm wearing except for my ring," which is exactly what I was hoping she'd say.
So it all worked out. Truth is, I'm going to miss hearing Kim say that one day she'd like a ring with a square diamond. It's not as if the game is over, though, because she has one other recurrent sentence.
"Some day, down the line, Charlie," she says, "I'd really like a horse."
Charlie Carillo's latest novel is One Hit Wonder. His website is www.charliecarillo.com. He's a producer for the TV show Inside Edition.