We were walking through the mall when my foot hits something, sending whatever it was skittering down the corridor. Joan and I both heard the clink clink clink of metal hitting a trash can and bouncing off the bench where middle-aged husbands seem to congregate. We exchange a “What was that?” look. Then I start to grin, and we both take off running, acting more like kids than the actual kids in the mall.
Trying to follow a straight line from the dad bench, I race at an awkward angle, looking at the ground. I scoop up the only metal object on the dirty tile floor seconds before Joan comes rushing over.
“Aha! Mine!” I shout triumphantly. She shushes me as we’re starting to get “looks” from the other mall patrons.
“Yes, but what is it?”
“Good question.” I open my hand and discover a rather beat up and dented ring. Joan and I both just stare at it for a moment, letting the disappointment sink in.
“A ring,” she says.
“A ring,” she says.
“A dirty ring.”
“How very Hobbit-y of you.”
I smirk back at her. “Funny girl.”
“Hey,” she says, picking at the ring just sitting in my palm, minding its own business, “it looks like something is engraved on it.”
“Really? You’re going to go there? Okay, fine.” I clear my throat and attempt my best Ian McKellen impression: “One ring to rule them all / One ring to find them –“
“No, seriously.” Joan both grabs the ring and smacks at me to shut me up. She holds the ring close to her face, squinting at it a bit, then holds it so I can see it. “Look.”
Engraved, no, scratched crudely into the world’s ugliest ring are four letters, evenly spaced around it:
H – O – P – E
I blink. “Huh.”
“You found hope,” Joan smiles.
“Or,” I say, taking the ring from her and turning it slightly, “I found OPEH.”
Joan laughs. “OPEH, like opa! Oooh, let’s have Greek food for lunch!” she says, linking her arm through mine. And then we’re off in search of gyros and saganaki; I shove Hope in my pocket, not giving it a second thought, although my heart and footsteps feel just a tad lighter.
Without telling Joan, I clean Hope. It doesn’t improve its looks. It’s still dented and scratched, but that doesn’t stop me from carrying it in my pocket where ever I go. One day I look down, contemplating a manicure, and realize that I’m wearing Hope. When did that happen? Ashamed, I shove my hand back in my pocket.
That night, while lying in bed, I stare at Hope on my hand again. Joan, who swears that she is “too delicate and ladylike” to snore, is snoring lightly next to me. I stare at Hope, trying not to disturb Joan. I suddenly wonder all of the things we didn’t wonder when we found it. Who does it belong to? How did it get there? I’m a little surprised that neither of us even considered dropping it into the mall’s Lost & Found. Maybe I should give it back?
But I don’t want to give it back.
The realization that I don’t want to give up Hope is sobering, even though I chuckle at my pun, causing Joan to shift in her sleep. I suddenly start listing everyone in the world who needs Hope more than I do – starving children, abused kittens, burn victims. I sigh and start to take off Hope. That’s when I can see that it has turned my finger green.