Hello Gydle peeps. I have a story for you.
I read this out loud as a contestant in the May edition of the Vancouver Story Slam. No, it’s not true. It’s just a story!
Lost and Found
“Ryan’s perfect for you,” Marie had said. “A good job. Good looking. Just broke up with his girlfriend.”
“A rebound date?” I’d said. “No thanks.”
But in the end of course I went. Marie is very persuasive.
That’s why I was sitting on the toilet in the restaurant washroom, staring at the floor — bits of toilet paper, dust, stains in the grout — and trying not to hyperventilate.
See, despite the fact that I’m tall and skinny, which our culture currently translates as “attractive,” deep down I have the confidence of a hedgehog. In the spotlight, I freeze and bristle. So after ordering a glass of wine, I’d escaped to muster up my courage. And that’s when I saw it, a glint of gold behind the little metal trash bin at the back of the stall.
I knew right away it wasn’t an ordinary ring. Strange symbols and tiny flowers were etched on the worn band, the creases black with age. A big opal was embedded in its broad, round front.
I abandoned my breathing exercises and went to the sink and washed it off. I slipped it onto the third finger of my left hand. A perfect fit.
Why not leave it on for a little bit? I thought. What could be the harm?
My panic attack had vanished. Odder still, I didn’t feel like a stick insect, like I usually do. I felt fabulous. I looked in the mirror. I looked fabulous!
Over dinner, Ryan held forth on something called “fin-tech,” which he said would be to banking what driverless cars would be to transportation. “Robots can make excellent financial decisions!” he said.
“These driverless cars,” I said, playing with the ring under the table. “Will they have robotic arms that come out and flip each other the bird?”
When I reached for a piece of focaccia, he saw the ring. “You’re married?” he said. “I thought — “
I didn’t panic. I just shrugged and dragged the focaccia through my alfredo sauce. “Long story.”
The temperature between us shifted, then. A curtain came down behind his eyes. He left with a tight smile after we split the bill. I was sorry, but only a little.
When I got home, I called Marie. “Total disaster,” I said. “But on the bright side, I found an amazing ring in the washroom.”
She took one look at the ring the next morning on our run, and told me to get it assessed. “This could pay off your college debt,” she said. “You could finally crawl out of your parents’ basement flat. It’s about time, you know.”
“I can’t do that,” I said. “It belongs to somebody.”
I put an ad on Craigslist. Within an hour, I had 200 emails. It took me two more at work to get through them, but not a single description matched. I pulled the ad.
That same evening, in the antique shop, I told the man I had inherited the ring from my aunt.
“Extraordinary,” he said. “Quite remarkable.”
He also said he’d need to keep it for a day or two for the assessment. I tried to pull it off and give it to him, but it wouldn’t budge.
“I have something for that,” he said. “Just a minute.”
I swear my legs moved of their own accord. By the time he’d returned, I was already a block away.
In my flat, which is lovely, by the way, I rubbed some soap onto my knuckle. But the moment the ring passed over the joint, my stomach heaved and a stabbing pain shot up my arm and into my brain. I quickly shoved it back down. The pain subsided.
I know what you’re thinking. This story is going to end with me as a withered crone, crouched in a dark, dank cave, muttering: “Mustn’t let them see us, precious!” Don’t worry. It doesn’t.
I did what I always do when I’m panicked. I counted my breaths. Breathe in – it’s only a ring. Breathe out – it’s only a ring. By the time I reached 15, I knew what I had to do.
Back in the restaurant, I sat at the bar nursing a glass of merlot. I watched the way the ring caught the light and trapped it, milky and swirling, in the depths of its stone.
A little girl climbed up on the stool next to mine. “Excuse me,” she said to the bartender. “Did anybody find a ring in here? I lost it, and it was my mom’s. I have to find it.”
The bartender reached under the counter and pulled out a box. “You can look in here,” he said.
Of course the ring wasn’t in the box. I turned and watched as the girl went over and sat down, small and defeated, across from a man who was sitting alone.
After a minute, I got up and walked over to their table, twisting the ring on my finger. It came off, smooth as butter. Not even a twinge.
I crouched down next to the girl and held it out in the palm of my hand. “I think this belongs to you.”
Her face lit up with the light of a thousand dancing fireflies. “See, daddy!” she said. “I told you she would send it back to us!”
I looked at the man sitting across from her. His sad eyes caught the light from hers and trapped it, warm and swirling, and sent it bouncing back to me.
And that, you see, is just the beginning of my story.