The journal sat open to a fresh page, a nearby pen at the ready. With hopeful anticipation she sat awaiting her muse to overtake her. She stared as if willing the impressions of words to begin to appear on their own. As if out of a fog, her mind began to recite;
“I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife – ” She hesitated then, struck by the sudden realization that she was no longer a wife…or was she yet? What is the term for that, when a marriage has not been dissolved but at the same time ceases to exist? Is there a term for what a marriage becomes after a spouse dies?
She glanced down at the ring that still encircled her finger, its golden majesty announcing proudly to all the world that she had joined her life with another; bonded; claimed; spoken for. There was no dissolution of the vows she took. There was no removal and reclamation of this ring. It sat proudly on her finger yet, beaming out its announcement to anyone curious enough to check. Did it even know what it was now? Had it become relegated to the meaningless thesaurus of things defined as “trinket”? Was it now simply just a piece of shiny jewelry to be cast into a box with other varied pieces of sparkling adornment?
She lifted her hand to examine the ring. “Husband,” she whispered to the silent morning air, “Am I your wife, yet?” She released the pen and let it fall to the table, rolling aimlessly across the ruled lines and imaginary script. She caressed the soft gold with a finger and twisted the ring around its axis. There, about a third of the way round, was the tiniest of nicks in the metal, as if born of the scratches that played around its edges, it dipped darkly inward; a chasm were she an atom upon its surface.
“Do you remember this day?” She spoke the words aloud, not fearing their utterance nor the chance hearing of nearby ears through the open window. So what if they think her mad, to what purpose would their thoughts be used? None. So let them think their thoughts and live their lives unencumbered by the mad widow who lives next door.
“You were angry that day.” she continued. “The climb was a difficult one and you had not considered this when you clipped canteens worth of water to your pack which was already loaded with everything that could potentially be necessary in the event of our injury.” She smiled and twisted the ring back and forth on her finger, catching stray glints of sunlight and sending them up to her eyes. “You slipped. You know I think my heart literally stopped beating in those moments watching you careen toward me, limbs flailing and scraping against the ragged rocky surface.” She felt that very same echo of terror at the recollection some years later, there in her kitchen. She inhaled deeply to calm herself.
“I thought I was losing you then. I thought we were both lost then…the drop to the forest floor was more than 50 feet. We’d struggled so hard to make it to that point, egos not allowing the rock face to beat us – do you remember? We were young then. Why go a half hour out of our way when we could climb straight up, huh?” She smiled down at her ring again and it stared blankly back at her showering out its golden sparkles joyfully oblivious to her reminiscing.
“I reached for your hand, fully expecting you to tear me from that rock face and we’d plunge headlong to our deaths hand in hand. You and I, like it was supposed to be.” She frowned as a twinge of sadness stabbed into her heart. She inhaled deeply again, expanding her belly and feeling the tension reluctantly loose its hold on her. “I leaned into that crevice, steeled my back and dug in my feet…by the grace of God or whatever power there is in the universe, it was enough to stop your plunge and change your trajectory flinging you instead to the ragged broken shelf where you landed, intact, alive and unhappily battered.”
A neighbor walked between the houses and glanced up at her window, he smiled shyly at the sight of her and nodded before quickly scurrying away.
“I remember the sound of our rings hitting one another. More than anything else on that day, I remember the metallic clang of our rings striking one another and grinding together as if it were thunder roaring across the skies.” She fingered the ring again and caressed the minuscule notch, “You had the matching scratch…that day I saved your life…and each day after that we told each other several times a day of our love for one another. Every morning, every afternoon, every evening and even in our sleep. Power rings.”
A tear slid from her eye and she didn’t bother to stop it. She choked back a sob, swallowing hard against the pressure building in her throat.
“We were supposed to survive everything together, do you remember making that promise?”
She closed her eyes and breathed in fully once again, fighting with the emotion threatening to overtake her.
“Am I your wife still? Are we married though you are gone? What am I to call myself? Does your ring stay on this finger?”
Her breath caught in her chest, a ragged sob escaped her throat. The tears came unabated now.
“You left me here to face this world alone, so you tell me, without you, who am I now?”