I was suddenly panicked where moments before I was content as a stinkbug on an overcooked hamburger patty to be headed back to the airport and back to real life.
Usually a pair of shoes wouldn’t be enough to make me and an entire car full of people go an hour out of our way for them, but these were special shoes. They had been given to me by a gal I once dated, and were nicer than just about anything in my wardrobe by a couple of hundred bucks at least.
“Can you pull over? I need to check my suitcase. I don’t think they are, but they could be in there,” I told them, praying with all my agnostic little heart that I was just completely forgetting having packed them. I knew I hadn’t packed them, though. I had just barely packed my luggage before we left, and I remembered very specifically putting every single thing inside because it took more concentration than a high-speed game of Tetris to make it all fit, and quickly.
My friend pulled over. Maybe they somehow got kicked under the bed… I didn’t know. My mind was a blur with thought about where I might have left them. Maybe they were shoved behind the curtains. But I had done a sweep of the hotel room for anything left behind. I would have seen them, surely.
I could sense the tension and worry in the faces of my travel-mates. Losing an hour when they had to get me to the airport and they wanted to get started on their own road trip home was a less than ideal thought. Yet, they were good friends and said nothing.
“Pop the trunk!” I yelled. The trunk gaped open, inviting me to explore my way to the bad news I knew was coming.
Come on, come on, just be in there.
I yanked my oversized suitcase from the car and set it on the pavement.
I unzipped it.
And with far less care than I should have given for how meticulously it was originally packed, I opened it and began digging.
I searched again, demolishing any order that was left inside.
They weren’t there.
I sat back on the strength of my own quadriceps, trying to decide if I should wave the white flag and just leave them behind, or if I should inconvenience everyone and possibly even miss my flight to go back for them. No shoes left behind, and all that jazz.
It really was a question of time.
I looked down at my watch, ready to do some heavy calculation and quick decision-making.
And right then, I saw them.
My missing shoes.
The shoes over which my heart had nearly just exploded.
On my… feet.
I was wearing the damn things the entire time.
Well, this is a little embarrassing.
I crammed my suitcase shut, threw it in the trunk, hopped in the car again, and slammed the door behind me.
“Did you find them?” my friends both said in unison.
Relief flooded both their faces.
“Oh good!” my friend replied. “Where were they?!”
I looked at him. I looked down at my shoes. I looked up at him again. “Just drive,” I said. “Just drive.”
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. This story, by the way, took place many months ago. For some reason the memory of this moment just jaunted its clumsy way through my mind and I couldn’t not share it (you know you all love my double-negatives).