The two lovers, one male and one female, the female clutching a Burberry coat around her body and the male putting his arm around her and rubbing her back slightly, nodded at each other.
They leaned forward over the safety railing and looked down at the frothy waters of the river, a good one hundred feet below the masonry bridge they were currently standing on. The white-foamed crests of the rushing water formed miniature rapids as they swallowed up the iron pylons of the bridge, enveloping them in a rush of cold water that gargled its way through the obstacle before finally settling into a smooth current on the opposite side of the bridge.
The nighttime lights – the headlights of the cars, the glittering points of light that were the streetlamps, the faraway reflections of the glass-tinted skyscrapers – seemed to all be reflected in the clear water, creating a sort of a mirror-world beyond the glassy surface of the water that occasionally rippled in the breeze.
The two humans broke from their reverie, and nodded at each other before holding up their hands and momentarily letting the fingers touch before, as gently as could be, each of them took the other’s ring finger in their hands, cradling it as if it were a newborn baby before hesitantly grasping the band of silver that encircled the finger and pulling it free, leaving a slightly red outline in its place.
They held the rings up in the air, marveling in their simplicity: a simple band of silver, circular in shape, with a small faux jewel imbedded slightly off-center – yet the most beautiful things the two lovers had ever seen.
Slowly extending their hands over the banister, the rings resting in the palms of their hands, they let it hang there for a moment – time seemed to come to a standstill as both of them focused on the sparkling rings that seemed determined to catch the last rays of light before, the rings seemed to know, the time would come when they would never get to see daylight again.
In a fell swoop, both humans turned their hands over simultaneously.
They closed their eyes, as if they were sentencing a dear friend to death – the female plugged her hands over her ears, as if the splash of the rings as they were encased by the swiftly flowing waters would ever reach far enough for her to hear.
The male, on the other hand, watched his ring as it slowly made its descent, one centimeter at a time – if time had stopped before, it was merely slowing down now – and, gradually, excruciatingly, enter the murky water in front of his eyes.
Only when the ring had vanished from sight did he allow himself to pull the female close in his arms, as if he had finally relinquished all control, and was giving himself one last moment of joy before he would have to abstain forever.
And so, the lovers departed from the bridge.
But the rings survived the fall – they were swept away by the rushing current, buffeted to and fro by the rollicking waves; and what was particularly surprising is that the rings always managed to stay together. Even when they were momentarily separated by a stray wave, or eaten by a wandering fish, or became tangled in a particularly nasty bunch of wild grass, the same wave would inevitably push them back together, the fish would promptly spit it back out, or the grass would magically and unexplainably disentangle itself and let the ring go on its path – and in that way, the rings washed up on a beach, far away from where they first began their journey.
They stayed there for a long time.
As the days passed, the rings – succumbing to the power of nature – slowly became discolored, until they were finally picked up by a child playing by the sand, to use them as decorations for his sand castle.
And when the child kicked down the sand castle, disappointed at how it turned out, the rings found themselves back in the river again.
This time, they didn’t go very far: they were promptly picked up by a fisherman, fishing for freshwater trout with a net. He found the rings sitting at the bottom of the black netting, shimmering in the sunlight, amongst a dozen flopping trout. Pleased at his good fortune, he brought the trout home to his farmstead, unknowingly transporting the rings along with him.
At the farmstead, the rings found out that there was an old grandmother, who one day mistook the rings for her son’s engagement rings and proceeded to spend an entire day weeping over his untimely death – the rings did not feel too good about that, but when they realized that they helped bring closure to his death, they felt slightly better.
As the years went by, the rings sat, forgotten, on the very top of a dusty shelf. As a new generation of farmers moved in, they decided to swap out the furniture.
The rings were thrown out on the side of the road along with the shelf they had resided in, where they were picked up by a truck driver that thought he would be able to sell the shelf for a cheap price.
He failed to sell it for any price, and ended up tearing it apart at the lumber shop and using it for firewood.
The rings found themselves, now, buried among a pile of wood shavings – headed straight for the incinerator, and certain doom.
By a sheer stroke of luck, there just happened to be a customer at the lumber shop – a woman with her two wide-eyed children in tow – that was looking for a new way to keep her patio clean.
Someone suggested using the wood shavings to layer the patio, and in the end, the rings found themselves transported into a new home – this time, they were quickly discovered by the two children, who took care of them as if they had been their own. They polished the rust off, revealing once again the silver’s sparkling sheen, straightened out the kinks as best as they could with their clumsy hands, and used them as accessories in playing dollhouse.
Once the children grew up, and graduated and went away, the rings were once again forgotten from memory – this time, buried under the couch cushions, sharing space with dust mites, cookie crumbs, and the occasional remote control.
Until one day, the housekeeper finally decided to earn her salary and stick a vacuum cleaner under the cushions for the first time – and found the rings, sitting there, waiting to be discovered again.
She took them home and placed them on the cupboard shelf, next to the family picture. She liked the way they looked.
They sat there for a good while, as well. It looked like nothing happened quickly for the rings; patience was a virtue.
One day, the housekeeper – who had retired by now – decided to hold a garage sale, to earn some extra money and clean out the house. She looked at the rings; she had forgotten about them, and threw them in the box marked “25 cents”.
They caught the eye of an old man who had wandered out for his morning stroll.
The rings caught the sunlight and shimmered brightly.
They reminded him of a set of rings he had used to have, with someone who had gone from his life long ago. They had been couple rings; when they had been young, and wild, and fierce, and had vowed to love each other until death did them part, they had gotten them as a sign of love for each other.
The old man wiped a tear from his eye as he drew a shaking hand and picked up the two rings, laying them gently on his weathered palm.
They seemed like old friends, the way they fit perfectly on his ring finger.
He paid 50 cents for the two of them, and just smiled mysteriously when he was asked, Why buy two?
One of the rings went into his pocket, where it gently floated down until it touched the fabric, and settled gently into its proffered space, leaning slightly against the hem of his vest.
The other ring, he slid on his finger. It felt like the return of a long-lost friend – a friend whom he thought he would never get the chance to see again.