Billions of years ago, the universe became.
In the aftermath of that fraction of a trillisecond of violent becoming, deadly gasses, dust, and detritus coalesced to form galaxies. Eventually, in one backwater galaxy, Earth also became.
Deep in its belly, Earth labored for thousands of millennia, slowly creating and re-creating itself. Through seismic collisions much more common than they are today, mineral-rich and hell-hot water beneath the crust plunged in temperature. In that sudden change, the water mutated into steam, leaving behind seams of new metals. Among them: gold.
If we imagine the universe as one year in age, then earth gold would be no older than a few seconds. For most of its brief existence, gold was no more or less useful than any other material birthed by this world. Then humans, even younger than gold, began to covet it and to form it into items they desired.
If a speck of that gold is one day formed into a wedding band, then the band itself is new and will always be new compared to the universe. Such logic is as pure and unassailable as 24-carat gold.
Yet, Mike wondered if Delia would see it that way. He wondered if she would be pleased to learn the band that he wanted to give her had previously adorned the left ring finger of a now-deceased social studies teacher in Decatur.
The jeweler said the retired teacher was wearing the gold band, as she had every day for 63 years (which, remember, is like a fraction of a millisecond in the life of the universe) when she slumped dead in her easy chair at the nursing home, spilling her tepid chamomile tea on her cardigan. The Danielle Steel novel she had just started was still bookmarked on page four.
And so what if the elderly woman’s two daughters and son, who lived far away and had busy lives, chose to sell the band, which their father had on their mother’s finger on their wedding day? Who could argue that it was better to sell the band for a few dollars rather than to bury it with their mother? What good would it do again under Earth’s surface? Their practical decision gave Mike an opportunity to make his own by purchasing the estate item rather than to pay 50% more for a new ring of no higher quality. Such a markup benefited only the jewelry store.
The jeweler promised he had thoroughly cleaned and shined the band before displaying it in the lighted case where it caught Mike’s eye. He insisted the jeweler clean the ring again to ensure all vestiges of the previous owner were removed.
Mike tried to convince himself Delia shared his practicality regarding material possessions. So, he decided to tell the truth about the ring’s provenance when he offered it as a symbol of his commitment to her.
And if Earth and its gold were just seconds old when compared to the universe, and if the gold band was also just micro-seconds old in comparison, then it made sense that Mike and Delia’s mutual commitment would be short, too. So short that not even a high-precision timer could record it.
Because Delia was having none of it.