archives, smile

Sunglasses, Streaks and Shoes: Reflections on a Life in Flux.


My new sunglasses, the ones I’d bought two days before, flew out of the car window as soon as I hit the freeway exit ramp. It was a small thing, to be sure.

But, it represented something bigger. My life was in flux, and my fashion remedy was making a run for it. The glasses were part of an emergency relief fund to improve my appearance. I hadn’t truly looked in the mirror since the whole separation fiasco began. My hair was long, the longest it had grown since high school. My nails were bitten down to the core. I had, as they say, let myself go to pot.

Not the fun kind that made me laugh like an idiot, but the kind that made friends and family whisper, “Poor thing. She looks like she’s been repeatedly run over by a truck.”

I had, on that fateful day, packed up everything I could stuff into my 10-year-old blue Subaru. I’d boxed up and bagged bits of the household I’d managed to beg, borrow or steal away from my newly acquired ex and his not-so-nice lawyer. The car looked as if it might crack under the pressure of such a heavy load. I slammed the trunk door and hoped it wouldn’t pop open like a party pinata.

But, ol’ blue was dependable, unlike some humans. She would see me through this crisis.

The recently closed on house was a two-hour drive away. It was the first house I’d ever purchased on my own. Mine, all mine, I didn’t have to share this one. I didn’t have to pick up after or peck at my partner to throw his socks in the laundry basket or put on some pants. It felt weird and wonderful and depressing and delightful all at the same time. This was virgin territory. I trod carefully.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. The future wasn’t planned except for the papers I needed to sign and keys waiting to be picked up at my realtor’s office.

A day before my permanent move from big city to small city, I decided I needed to spruce up. Hair, nails (what was left of them) shoes and sunglasses were purchased with absolutely no guilt. After six months of seeing my life dismantled, I deserved some trivial tokens of triumph. I knew I shouldn’t spend a cent. but what the hell! These were my going-away presents to myself.

Women cannot live by sweats and scrunchies alone.

Hair was cut, streaked, shaken and stirred, nails painted pink and pretty with just a hint of pluck. He’d always hated my pluck. I didn’t need permission to act permissive. I was my own boss again.

All was going relatively well. I thought I’d hit the pinnacle of impressive. Then, I found the shoes, oh my, the shoes, sinfully delicious: Michael Kors, peek-toed pumps with a flex ankle-strap in suede Bordeaux. Need I say more?

“Are you attending a special event?” the saleslady asked.

“Yes, I’m making a two-hour drive to Appleton,” I replied.

At the checkout, she examined my card carefully. Probably thought I was crazy. Which I kind of was, but the good kind this time. The kind that made me laugh like an idiot. As I slipped into the Forester in my new shoes and shades, I suddenly felt exceedingly fine. Though a few pieces of furniture threatened to shift and slide into the passenger seat, everything else was solid as a rock.

I made my way to my adopted city. The sun started lowering in the sky. Everything took on a pinkish hue, breathtaking! I slipped off the glasses and rolled down the window. Fresh air filled the car. I breathed it all in: new city, new shoes, new hair, new life. The turn off the exit ramp was a combination of curvy, swervy with a round-about kicker. And that’s when it happened.

The glasses, my new polarized, Ray-Ban tortoiseshell sunglasses slipped silently out of the window and into the soft pinkish-hued night.

My first reaction was to step boldly onto the brakes. But the shoes wouldn’t let me do it. They seemed to scream, “No! You might scratch our suede!” And, more importantly, there were several cars behind me. It would have caused a chain of bumper-thumpers. I hadn’t a clue what to do except drive onward.

This felt like a bad omen. My glasses had willingly, wantonly, left me. Just like… but no, I would not figuratively go down that road again. I decided that the glasses simply needed to be free. Perhaps they yearned for an exotic adventure. Who knows, maybe somebody would find them and put them on.

Maybe this lucky stranger was headed to the airport getting ready to hop a plane to Paris or Rome. The glasses might take in the sites of street-side cafes and sun-drenched days. They could potentially travel faster and farther then I ever would in my lifetime.

The glasses were gone. For a desperate second, I stared at the rear-view mirror, hoping to spot them. But, it was not to be. I needed to move ahead, not throw myself into reverse. I needed to remember I’d been strong enough to come out the other side intact. Not continue to torture myself with regrets over all I had lost.

My streaks still looked good, my nails pretty/plucky, but the shoes were killing me. Ah, such is life, bittersweet and sort of silly.


Wendy Schmidt has been writing short stories, essays and poetry for the last 10 years. Her pieces have been published in Verse Wisconsin, Chicago Literati, City Lake Poets, Literary Hatchet, Moon Magazine, Rebelle Society, and a number of anthologies. You can read one of her stories, The Curse Now Lifted, in the award-winning anthology, Shifts.


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