There it sat. It sat, as it has been sitting for many years. A simple leather case, well cared-for in its time. Now layered in dust and cobwebs. Untouched. Waiting.
Paul had set it there, this leather case, many years ago. He would enter the room, and though he was thoroughly aware of its presence, he would rarely spare it a glance. And still, it waited.
The case was itself nothing out of the ordinary. A relatively high-end purchase from a store uptown, or downtown. Paul could never remember. A gift from his wife. His late wife, who passed many years ago. That, he remembered.
Today, entering the room and seeing the case, long-undisturbed, Paul hesitates.
“I had come in here for something…” He tells himself. Paul was the better part of seventy years old, and had found himself more forgetful of late. His wife always had the sharper memory, though, when she was alive. When they were together, and young. And it waits…
Paul loved Marianne from the momeant he saw her. It sounds cliche, in this day and age, but Paul knew then, first seeing Marianne, that she would be his wife. A love like that fulfills the deepest need, the greatest yearning. It is everything that is right in the world.
But she died….
After three years of trying for a baby, Marianne had succeeded in getting pregnant. After five years of marriage, Paul would be a father.
“You’ll be a wonderful father,” Marianne would tell him. “You’re so full of life and hope.”
But she got sick…
The doctors weren’t sure what ailment she was afflicted with. Paul was by her side, sure that she would be fine. Hoping for the best. Knowing that they would be a happy, loving family.
But Paul watched them both die…
Paul shakes his head, recovering as if from a bad dream. Memories can be so painful. Standing in the room, looking at an old, dusty leather case, he finds that he is standing right beside it. Looking down, he shakes his head again. His hope died all those years ago. “Why am I here?”
And It waits.
The gift of his wife was now keeper of another gift, one that Paul had received as a child. With Marianne gone, Paul felt it was best to lock the gift away. He had no desire for it. Could not bare to think of life without Marianne.
For over forty years, this most precious gift was locked away. Paul’s despair only deepened, attempting a life without her. Without love. Without hope.
The world changed, and became a darker place. Each passing year saw Paul descend further into depression, and each passing year’s dust accumulated on leather bindings. Leather that was now being handled, tenderly wiped clean, Paul’s aged, gentle fingers restoring life. Inside, It senses that the time is at hand.
Paul is old. And tired. He has spent the remaining years of his life lost, lonely, loveless. Hopeless. To be utterly devoid of hope, one must have hope ripped away. Paul opens the case.
Inside, a small earthen jar rests. It seems so insignificant. Carefully, very carefully (the jar is many, many centuries old), Paul lifts the jar. As a child he was given the gift, and it remained, with the lid off, wherever he lived. After Marianne’s death, he placed its lid on the jar, stored it in the leather case, and set it aside. Now he holds it in his hands. Inside the jar, It knows it is time to wait no longer.
Paul, with great trepidation, removes the lid once more, and his expectations of what would happen were incredibly mistaken:
Nothing perceptible to Paul, that is. Yet what he held was a Greek pithos, once gifted to humanity with instructions not to open. It was Pandora’s folly that released all of Earth’s woes, and Paul’s folly that once again trapped Hope within. Hope must be free, lest woes overtake us. And once again, Hope freely flies.
For the first time in over forty years, Paul felt Hope, and was hopeful. Then he smiled.