I know: it was a pair of flip-flops you probably bought 10 or 15 years ago. And I know you really don’t care.
It was really stupid how I lost it—getting out of my kayak, changing out of my waterproof insulated boots in a rush to get in the car and get something to eat after a long day on the water with my daughter and our friends.
I’ve been wearing your old flip-flops to the beach for sea glass hunting over the last four years. Already old, they’d gotten really ratty from all the underwater wear and tear, and each time I climbed over rocks in them, with their slip-sliding bare-bottom surface, I worried I’d wipe out and crack my head open since I’m usually out there alone.
When I realized the flip-flop was gone I went back to the kayak launch to look for it, a low-budget Cinderella standing there with a single from a pair, looking around, no sea Triton showing up with the mismatched one.
Not finding it, I cried, mourning all over again, letting the quiet, sunset-drenched shoreline take the tears once again as I remembered packing up the very shoe in my hand into a box, along with all your other shoes and clothes, in the closet where you took your own life.
I wrote about it then, about how me, and Mom, and my three daughters and our other sister all shared your shoes, how somehow we were all the same shoe size, so we all still wear them. And now, I lost one forever.
There was no way this was some sort of deal I was being told it was “time to move on,” so forget that bullshit because no one ever moves on from losing a sibling, especially not to suicide. So I reasoned maybe you didn’t like how I was constantly climbing over slippery rocks in the flip-flops, that my boots were safer, or the new-to-me all-terrain waterproof shoes my daughter had left behind recently from camp.
I took the flip-flop back to my island writing cottage. I feel badly for not writing more about suicide awareness and prevention. Since you died this way and you were my sister, I should be going to marches, joining organizations and giving motivational speeches to high school classes. But I’m not there, or I’m not that person yet, or the medicine I take so that I don’t let my own depression and killer migraines get so bad that I ever get to a point where our parents have to bury another kid… right now getting by is all I can really handle, I can’t really help others. There are days where just getting out of the house is a miracle.
I know you know all that, and that you know the pain. We all do. I wish you were still here to help me deal with some of it; I’ve had such a hard time with so many things since you’ve been gone. There’s no you to call anymore, there’s no replacement for you. I was never good at making really close friends, so I really mostly keep to myself, though I know a lot of really cool people through beachcombing and they’ve helped me.
Looking around back at the cottage, I find a place for the flip-flop, a row of three hooks where I hang all my baseball hats; I tuck it there above them and remember all the trips it has made over the years to the beach—my trips and yours. I found a porcelain rose from a teacup on the beach after you were gone, I knew somehow you’d left it there. Now, I have a small collection of roses from the past four years, and what a blessing each time I find another.
I have a few other pairs of your shoes I still wear—boots mostly, though they’ve become worn as well. Some haven’t, since they’re heels and I never really go anywhere fancy. My memory of your laugh never seems to fade; I can hear it in my head as clearly as though it was yesterday. I don’t need to wear your shoes to walk in the footsteps of those memories and know you are always with me.