She arrived late. She seemed nervous as she made her way through the pews to find an empty space to sit. She found one next to me right at the front of the whole meeting area. We were sitting on pews because the school had a chapel, and the pews had been carried out into the assembly grounds, where a tent had been erected. The school started as a Baptist church mission, which explained the imposing presence of the school chapel and its stained glass windows. She smiled nervously at me as I made space on the pew for her. I moved my bag and put it on my lap. She settled into her space and we politely whispered our hellos. Without another word she fixed her eyes to the front stage and let out a deep sigh.

She looked like a million other women in the country. She wasn’t rich. But she made sure she looked presentable for her child’s prize giving day. She was wearing a pretty dress made from the kitenge fabric, known for its bright colours and bold patterns. Her hair was tied in a neat ponytail that had been plaited into lots of little braids. I could see strands of her grey hairs showing through the braids. She wore low heeled beige shoes that matched the beige parts of her kitenge dress. She had her hands and legs crossed in a similar way, with one over the other, that made her already small frame shrink even more.

That’s when I saw her wedding ring. A small, thin band of brass, or perhaps tarnished gold. It looked like she had not taken it off in years. She had put on some weight, because the ring looked like it was suffocating her finger. Maybe, her wedding ring was symbolic of her marriage. Restrictive. Suffocating. Painful. It looked painful to have that ring around her finger. But at the same time, she didn’t seem to notice. It’s like her ring finer had ceased to be a part of her body that felt pain. Or it was a pain she endured with pride-as all marriage woes were. The more you endured patiently, the better your rewards. I looked at her ring finger for a while. And wondered when it was that she stopped feeling the pain. Or if she ever felt any pain in the first place. Perhaps her marriage, like her ring, was not something you got out of, or took off, no matter what. Perhaps, even, it would have hurt her finger more if you took the ring off. Blood would start flowing to a part of her body that she had completely forgotten exists. Cut off from the rest of her body by a band of faithfulness.

I will never forget that ring, and her ring finger. I sat through several performances. One of them of my child singing about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I took some pictures with my phone for posterity. But that ring finger is a mental image, I will never forget.

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