During our last thrift store shopping spree, she insisted I buy them. “They’re so you, El.”
The fact that I could not walk in them was much less important than the fact that there was a lime green leaf shaped like a heart with orange veins sewn into the thong style strap, and a turquoise insole painted with a tropical floral design. Not to mention the sassy wooden heel.
“Really?” I said, wincing as I hobbled along the aisle which on one side displayed an impressive collection of well loved but dusty stuffed animals and on the other side showcased an eclectic collection of used household appliances. I gracelessly stumbled over the toaster cord that had snaked its way into the fashion runway. “You think?”
To some passersby, she may have appeared to be holding onto the cart full of treasures we had already thrown in there for purchase. I knew the cart was really holding her up. She was too weak to walk unsupported. But, we had to see what the thrift stores were like in Sanibel Island. There was no driving by.
The bottom of the shoes are scuffed, as though having been on a journey, but the tops are still pristine, seemingly never worn. I cannot wear them. At least not for very long. The stylish brown suede strap that branches out from the yellow-green leaf to the flashy insole is much too loose to hold my skinny foot. It slips and slides and won’t stay put. The rigid wooden heel beneath my own immediately feels awkward then rapidly declines into a downright excruciating situation. With every step, shooting pains emanate from my vulnerable heels all the way up to the top of my head.
I have packed these sandals into every suitcase since my sister died. I never go anywhere without them.
Its been almost three years, as impossible as that seems. Life without her will never fit. Yet the reprieves from this stark fact come a little more often and last a little longer as the days and years pass. These welcome respites allow me to move forward and accommodate my misfit, mismatched shoes of life without Connie.
Then there are times when the reprieve vanishes, in a flash. Surprising instants, not the momentous ones you would expect. Like yesterday.
I looked in the mirror, and disarray stared back at me. She said, “A little upkeep is in order.” Among other things, I badly needed a haircut. And some color to camouflage the ever encroaching grays that poke out at my temples and roots and say ‘nyah, nyah” when I’m not looking. Clearly, I hadn’t looked in quite a while. My hair was in need of attention. I had an afternoon to myself, and I decided I would do something about it. I’d wash that gray right out of my hair. Grab the box and go.
Apply, wait 35 minutes, and rinse. Simple dimple, and no exorbitant bill from the hair salon.
The fuschia glow radiating from my temples warranted a call.
This was officially a hair disaster, like so many Connie and I had shared over the years. In cases of hair disaster, we could call each other no matter what time of day or night. It was an unspoken rule between sisters.
Abracadabra, the reprieve had vanished. The sting was strong, and it shot like an arrow through my hot pink roots all the way down to my bony heels. Like Achilles in reverse.
Powered by the lime green and orange heart-leaves emblazoned on my feet, like droopy, psychedelic Hermes wings, I donned my hat.
Putting one foot in front of the other, I trudged out the door.
I knew what I had to do.
When I reached the pharmacy,
I bought another box that clearly said