Strappy sandals. That is what I remember most of that day. The way they bit into my feet. The supple leather becoming like a death trap for my soft skin. I stared down at them with every step willing them to stop rubbing my flesh raw. Step after step, I tried to ignore the increasing pain. It was no matter, I could see where they were tearing away layer by layer of skin. I halted and pulled them off my swollen feet one by one, hooked them on my finger, and I continued to trudge forward.
We were 25 miles from home in a small, neighboring town. We had dropped the kids off at a friends house while we went to an appointment and for a nice dinner. It was the closest thing to a date we’d had in awhile. I made sure to dress up nicely for him, my monster. Even going as far as to pull on my beautiful strappy sandals that showed off my slender ankles and freshly painted toenails. I wanted so badly for it to be a good day.
But his shoulders were taut that afternoon. And there was a darkness behind his eyes I recognized all too well. I was careful to watch my words and not trip the tenuous cord that was holding him together. Our meeting was uneventful, our dinner was strained, and our fragile peace was teetering.
Somewhere in the moments before paying the bill and exiting the restaurant, I’d let the wrong words slip from my tongue. The darkness behind his eyes eeked out and covered his whole face, his back going rigid, his mouth pursed. My belly plummeted to the floor. I tried reaching for the tethers that had held our day together but they were too fast. No. I closed my eyes and tried to take in deep breaths.
We made it to the car before the tirade began. But we never made it out of the parking lot together. I couldn’t do this today. Not today. Today was supposed to be a good day. He’s yelling. He’s so angry. His words were slicing my heart and mind. Internal bleeding.
My body lurched forward as he unexpectedly slammed on the brakes. He reached across me and pushed my door open. I stared at him with my jaw dropped. And then I was being pushed from the car. Somewhat physically. More verbally. Push. And he was gone.
I stood in the parking lot of an Applebee’s in shock. Stood there in a little cute outfit and my nice strappy sandals. Surely he’d come back. Surely he wasn’t leaving me here. Surely…
And then I began to walk. What choice did I have? One foot in front of the other. My tears filling my eyes but refusing to fall. My mind racing. My heart threatening to stop beating with pain of it all. How was this okay?
It had to be summer. Maybe fall. I do not recall if I was cold or hot. I think I got sunburnt. Maybe I’m making that up. But I do recall with stark clarity those sandals. I remember the pain got more intense with every mile. I remember finally not being able to stand the searing ache of them cutting into the backs of my heels and my toes and the tops of my feet. I remember stopping to pull them off one by one, hooking them on my finger and continuing to walk. Relief for a short time. But then I recall becoming more and more aware of the rocks. The pavement. The rubble beneath my feet. Pushing into my soles and cutting them, blistering them. I began to hobble.
He never came to look for me.
Turns out, he’d went back to our friends house. He thrown back a few beers while I’d torn my feet up to make my way there. He’d said I had something to take care of as if I was running some quick errands or doing some light shopping. He’d laughed and made jokes and maybe played a round of pool as I held back tears and tried to recall my way back to my children on aching foot. He’d had not a care in the world. Least of all his wife.
This is how it always looked. Me struggling for breath and grasping for understanding and left behind bloodied and bruised. Him wreaking havoc and smiling and drinking and making the world believe I was just out running some errands.
Strappy sandals. The feel of them, the look of them, the weight of them. That is what I remember most from that day. I cannot recall the words or the why but I can picture those stupid sandals. How I slipped them on with hope. How they tore into my feet. How they felt hanging from my fingers. How they traveled miles with me. But mostly, how they looked as they fell into the trash. Lifeless. A lot like me.