“None of my clothes fit,” I said one morning as I stripped off the jeans that gaped at my waist. It had been a week since Shawn died and more than six weeks since I had eaten a normal meal.
Kelly and Paige both sat on the edge of my bed, watching me throw clothes out of my closet. They were still staying with me, helping me get through the terrible tasks that followed the funeral. We’d come upstairs in the hope that I could clean out Shawn’s closet, but I felt overwhelmed after taking just one flannel shirt off of a hanger. “This can wait,” Kelly said, and I agreed. Instead, I tried to find something to wear that day. I was at least fifteen pounds lighter than I’d been before Shawn’s diagnosis.
Kelly had her hair pulled back, and wore a thick gray sweater. She held a black scarf in her left hand. She’d arrived from Michigan, ready for the winter. Paige had flown in from the Caribbean, where she was living, and her sun-kissed skin struck me as particularly out-of-place at that moment. She only had one sweater, a colorful piece that she’d been wearing all week. I could see a dusting of snow outside, and I pulled out a stack of sweatshirts. “I’ll wear one of these, and some leggings,” I said, “but maybe we should go shopping. At least that might feel normal.”
We went downstairs and found my sister thumbing through a magazine. My dad sat near her, reading a thick book. He had his feet on the coffee table. “We’re going to Nordstrom Rack,” Paige said.
“Okay,” my dad replied, like it was exactly what you should be doing mere days after your husband’s funeral.
As we got out of the car in front of the store a few minutes later, I was momentarily stunned by all of the people on the sidewalk. What were they doing? How were they all here, just living their normal lives, acting as though the world hadn’t totally shifted under their feet?
We went inside and combed through the racks of leftover holiday gowns and designer athletic gear for a while. On the wall, a neon sign read “Get ready to save!” and I paused, looking at it. The lights were a shade of orange too bright for my eyes.
Paige came up to me. “I’m going to look at shoes,” she said, and waited for my response.
Of course, I thought. Kelly and I paid little attention to the current styles, but Paige was always our guide as to what was in fashion. “Okay, I’ll go look too,” I said, and we wove through stacks of discarded makeup as we headed towards a tower of shoes.
“Look at those,” she said, pointing at a box on the end of the row.
The shoes inside were red high heels, with gold accents on the side and a designer name I didn’t recognize. Paige pulled them out of the box. “I love these!”
She pulled off her boots and thick wool socks. “Those are ridiculous,” I said to Kelly, who had joined us. The heel was at least four inches high.
“I heard that!” Paige said, smirking at us. Kelly shook her head, but we smiled back at her. Paige buckled the last strap and then walked up and down the aisle, dancing a little bit to the bad pop music coming over the loudspeaker.
Kelly and I both chuckled. “Where in the world would you wear those, Paige?” Kelly asked.
“Anywhere!” Paige said. “These shoes are really versatile!”
She then walked up and down the aisles as though she was on the runway, and Kelly and I started to really laugh.
“Paige, you are crazy!” I said, spitting out my words because I was laughing harder than I had in months. I needed the release, even though I may not have found this specific act so funny in another time and place. Paige made faces at us, egging us on.
Then, almost in the same moment, the laughter turned to choking sobs, so much so that Paige was still performing for us when I started crying. I collapsed back onto the bench, Kelly at my side.
Paige ran over in her heels, crouching down in front of me, and they wrapped their arms around me.
After a long time, I stopped. I picked my head up and looked at my friends.
“I just remembered that it’s all real.”