I t’s not cold, but it’s not hot either, and as I stand before the ATM, the setting sun makes me shiver inside my tailored jacket.

A message appears on the screen: Insufficient Funds.

I walk away from the ATM.

Fine, I won’t withdraw any cash. I’ll just walk home from work, even though home is a half hour away, and my shoulder is already hurting from carrying my bulky laptop.

Not to be dramatic, but if I can’t afford a bus fare, I’m in pretty bad shape.

I glance at my reflection in the window of a parked car and force a smile. Not bad for a destitute person.

I smooth back my sheitel and my ring catches the rays of the dying sun. My beautiful, lustrous ring, worth many, many bus rides, sitting proudly on my finger, ready and waiting for the compliments so frequently heaped on its small, haloed head.

My proud chassan — now a tired father of two — paid for that ring on his own, using up every ounce of savings he’d acquired through camp salaries and bar mitzvah gifts, and even a CD he’d had sitting in the bank.

I’d wanted to be that girl who begs him to save the money so he could stay and learn another year far off in our future, but oh boy, did I want that ring. And he’d wanted to spoil me in those last few months of childhood in a way that he wouldn’t be able to once we began adult life.

And that’s the funny thing. Because if I can’t afford the bus, can’t afford to stop into the five-shekel coffeehouse to purchase a hot chocolate, should I really be sporting a ring that cost upward of seven thousand dollars?

But then again, the ring stays on my finger while funds come and go. I’ve learned that the hard way. And then, because I forget easily, I’ve learned it again and again.

Hashem has ensured it’s a lesson that I’ll understand, one way or another. Only He knows how much we’ll have at the end of each day. Two jobs, some much-appreciated support, a kollel check now and then, yet the amount is always a mystery until the very end.

Right now, there’s nothing. But tomorrow? Only He knows.

It’s not an easy game to play. Especially since I’ve encouraged my tired chassan to learn another year. And another. Even without the ring money. Even without any money. And still we manage.

I walk and dream of a cream-colored Cadillac. With heated seats. My shoulder hurts. A lot. And I’m tired. And I miss my babies. And now it’s dark, and it’s okay if the tears I was holding back slide silently down my cheeks. Because to the passing cars, I’m just a shadow, a well-dressed shadow with a ring that has gone from capturing the sun’s rays to reflecting the light of the moon.

I’m hungry, but I can’t stop into the nearby bakery. That’s okay. I baked cinnamon buns for Shabbos and there are a few left. But I want to wallow, so I allow the thought to take over: can’t even afford a rugelah.

Under the cover of darkness, I allow myself the luxury of letting go. So I let go of my control and I let go of my emotions, and just for several moments, I let go of my emunah. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 587)