115_box_348x490This is the lesson of Rififirings are nothing but trouble. A carefully planned and executed heist comes to naught because of a diamond ring given to a showgirl by a vainglorious safecracker (played by the director himself). That one symbolic gesture brings about the gang’s downfall.

When civil unions became law in Delaware, the wife of one of Matthew’s colleagues offered her planning services for our ceremony. I’m sure you’ll want to do this soon, she said. Matthew and I glanced at each other, taken aback that she was more excited about our theoretical unionization than we were. 

Matthew’s father once explained that, in marriage, there are three rings:  the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then the suffer-ring.

When Matthew and I drive to visit his father in upstate New York, along Route 31 in Pennington, New Jersey, we pass a warehouse that sells ‘USA Tolerance Rings.’ Was this the new thing amongst the kids? I wondered. The middle ground between chastity rings for the Christians and the rainbow freedom rings for gays and lesbians? Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that tolerance rings are a manufacturing component used to join mating cylindrical parts.

I once gave Matthew a ring, which he flung away. I had bought it at the Colorado People’s Fair, from a tented vendors with stacked, felt-lined trays of jewelry. I bought him a simple silver band, though given the other stock—rings with dragons and pentagrams, intricate claddaghs, rings that looked like that had been blackened in a fire—I can’t be sure that it was actually silver. Or even metal. The ring turned out to be loose, since I could only estimate his ring size based on my own fingers. While he was pulling a plant out of his car, his hand flew back, and the ring went flying, with only a single tink! to indicate where it may have gone. Or so he claims.

Now that same-sex marriage has become the law in Delaware, Matthew and I play a variant of the gay/not gay game, in which we try to guess whether two people are together or not. An obvious giveaway, of course, is the presence of matching rings. If they, in turn, play the same game with us, I’d like to think that the answer is still obvious, despite the absence of any symbolic jewelry.

But, in the end, no one really cares about the ring in Rififi. The centerpiece of the film is, undoubtedly, the soundtrack- and dialogue-free sequence as the thieves perform their heist. They communicate with gesture and glance, having practiced and prepared. This silent partnership is the raison d’être of the film. It’s what people remember.

What I remember: Matthew and I, stretched out across our respective couches, reading.  I glance over at him and know what he’s saying: Get this damn cat off of me or I need a refill of tea. Why have a ring ruin all that?

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