While Oliver eats and looks at the paper, I hide my hands under the table and toy with the gold on my hand. I slip the rings off and there is an internal whoosh of letting go. But it’s not just Jack and it’s not entirely a good whoosh. I feel the rushing away of everything I thought would be. Everything I hoped for. Pulling the rings off is like tossing my map out the window. Facing some unmarked road to who knows where.
What if I had to introduce myself to someone. I would have no qualifiers to attach to my name. Hi I’m Nina, I’m Jack’s wife, mother of three, we just bought a place out in the country. The kids can’t wait to get a dog. We never let them have one in that little city apartment, but our family just got so big that we needed more space. You should come out and visit. I’ll give you a tour of the garden. You should see it. The previous owners have really set us up as far as beautiful landscaping goes.
None of that was going to happen without those rings on. Maybe none of it was going to happen anyway. But without them, I wasn’t sure what to say. Hi I’m Nina. I take photos of food for a living. That’s pretty much it. Sorry. You always feel the need to apologize to strangers when your life doesn’t work out the way you planned.
“You ok over there?” Oliver asks, the paper on the table, his eyes on me.
“Yeah,” I say.
Under the table I put the wedding set on the right hand pointer finger. It doesn’t fit that finger, of course. So when I look down at it, it just looks like a couple of rings that don’t belong on my hand. The rings must belong to somebody, but just not me. How did I end up with these rings stuck at the knuckle of my right hand? I feel like a person who took a wrong turn a hundred miles back and is just now realizing the mistake, but is so far into the journey that she doesn’t want to tell the other passengers that they’re going the wrong way.
I put the rings on the kitchen table. I don’t still want the marriage. I wanted the possibilities. But what I thought was possible, may not be. I’m exchanging one set of hope for another. It could be futile, but what else is there to do but go from here. I feel safe here.
“Are you sure about that?” Oliver asks.
I wonder if I’m making a different statement to him that I am to myself. He must see the removal of the rings as our official beginning. I suppose it is. The last step in one direction logically begets the first step in another.
“I’m sure,” I say. “Although it seems strange for them just to sit there while we eat.”
He nods and picks them up. He walks a few steps away into the living room area and drops the rings into a blue pottery vase sitting on the coffee table.
“There,” he says. “If you change your mind, you know where they are.”
He says it like it’s an option I’m allowed to take up. This is youth talking. I wonder how long it will take those rings to burn a hole in the bottom of that vase.
“Now,” he says joining me back at the table. “I just have to make sure you don’t.”