Franks remembered Bires' first name — Chris — but couldn't have told you exactly what he looked like. He was just another fit, well-groomed guy in the hordes of fit, well-groomed guys who hustle day after day between their Loop high-rise offices and the suburban trains.
But now he was back, asking about the sax guy, and she recognized him.
"I've been looking for you," she said.
She unzipped a small gold coin pouch. She reached inside. She pulled out Bires' wedding ring.
She had found the sax man up on Michigan Avenue, she explained, and asked if somebody had dropped a ring in his box.
"Yeah," he'd said.
The sax man was keeping it on his key ring. He took it off and gave it to Franks.
And that is how Chris Bires' wedding ring took an unlikely tour of Chicago and finally came back to him.
"Two people on the streets asking for money easily could have hawked the ring," Bires said one day this week.
He has been so touched by the fact that neither of them sold it, by the fact that Franks worked to return it — carrying it around for weeks, worried she would lose it — that he wanted to share the story, which he and Franks did one afternoon this week, sitting at a cafe downtown.
Franks, in a bright red coat, came lugging the two bags she had carried with her that day to the bridge, where she typically arrives at 7 a.m., stays for 31/2 hours, then returns at 3:30 p.m. for the evening rush, standing the whole time.
Since she found Bires' ring, he has tried to help her out, and she has told him a little about herself, that she's 61, has been coming to the bridge since 2010, when she lost a job, that she lives with a daughter and a granddaughter, and that she was shuttling between cheap hotels until her recent move into an apartment.
I asked her if she ever considered selling the ring.
"Oh, no," she said, as if the question was too odd to even pose.
In the city, we barely see the strangers we pass every day. Bonita Franks and Chris Bires might never have noticed each other if it hadn't been for the wandering ring that, if only for a while, brought them together.
And Bires hasn't taken that ring off since he got it back.