I couldn’t find my black flats. They would go with my skirt and red blouse and I was running late for work. I went around the house looking in all the usual places where I kick off my shoes. No, they’re not by my bedroom chair. Not by the couch and they’re not by the front door. Where are they? I have to be leaving to work right now. Well, when in doubt, look where they belong. I went back to my bedroom and looked in my closet where my shoes are supposed to be kept when I’m not wearing them. Not there.
My eyes fell on my pair of skull shoes set on the top shelf of the shoe rack. They were black, like my missing flats, but unlike my missing flats they had bright colored skulls all over them like the skulls for Dia de los Muertos. I caught myself smiling at the idea of wearing these bright casual shoes with my professional teacher outfit. I needed to wear these shoes today. I needed silly.
The previous Saturday afternoon, scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post from my principal sharing news that one of my students in my second period class passed away. I stared at my phone in disbelief. I gave him a hard time Friday morning in class for not doing his assignment and copying off of a neighboring student. He gave me his slow grin and started working on his assignment like he was supposed to. Monday morning I had his paper to return to use for his quiz and he wasn’t there. I see his name on my student withdrawal list on my grading program whenever I log on to complete my class attendance.
My second period was boisterous and quick to laugh but now they are quiet and subdued. I dreaded my second period class Monday morning because I didn’t want to see the empty desk that I knew would be there. The school offered grief counselors that morning and I spoke to one, seeking advice on how to address my class after a death of one of their own. I’m running class as usual now, but I know my students are hurting.
I found a pair of no-show socks to wear with the skull shoes and put them on. I looked at myself in the mirror. Not something I usually wear with a skirt and blouse but I liked that it was silly. I took myself to the living room to say goodbye to my kids before I left for work.
“What do you think?” I asked, modeling my outfit before them.
The kids barely glanced at me from the couch and returned to watching their Pokemon cartoons.
“Wow, tough crowd!” I said. I tried again, striking a different pose, “What do you think?”
My daughter tore her attention from her cartoon and looked me up and down.
“Your shoes don’t match.” She said and gazed back at the television.
“Yeah, they’re a little different” I said. I went over to my kids and kissed each of them, telling both that I loved them and to have a good day at school.
At work a couple of hours later, in second period, one of my quieter students happened to look down and see my skull shoes.
“I like your shoes Mrs. Adams” he said “They’re cool.”