Exhibit A: Sunday afternoon, at the YMCA pool. It’s Member Appreciation Day! There is pizza! And ice cream! And music! And it’s free! So it’s crowded. There are no chairs available, but that’s okay. We find a nice little space on the pavement by the wall and claim it. We set down our bag. Lay out one towel. We swim, the boys eat, do the cha-cha-slide (sort of), and we all swim some more. It’s a very nice time. It’s a very nice time in spite of the slightly off teenager who keeps swimming up to me under water and popping up with his swim mask asking “Did I scare you?”
(NOT IN THE WAY YOU’RE INTENDING TO.)
I am happy at the pool.
Happy and relaxed.
I am also prepared.
I have one change of clothes for each family member, so we can go directly from the pool to our favorite used book store. When it is time to leave, I shift into high efficiency mode, brushing off the I-don’t-wanna-leaves and it-isn’t-fairs and shuttling the boys to the locker room, except--
Except one of my flip flops has gone missing.
I look high. I look low. I look under towels. I look at the bottom of the pool. I empty our pool bag three or four times. Check my purse. Check my feet. Check Patrick’s feet. Check my purse again.
The flip flop is gone.
Someone, I imagine, has absentmindedly tossed it into his or her bag and gone home.
I should do the same. Toss my remaining flip flop into my bag and get over it. It is a flip flop. A black, rubber, Rite-Aid flip flop.
I am in denial.
It has to be here somewhere! Keep walking around looking crazy. You'll find it.
Yesterday at the pool a woman lost her wedding ring. NOW I KNOW HOW SHE FEELS.
Perhaps it is the suddenness of its departure?
WAIT! DON’T GO! I DIDN’T GET A CHANCE TO SAY GOODBYE!
And then, I am angry.
Angry, angry, angry because what is wrong with people? EVERY TIME we go to the Y, something gets taken.
"Every time," I tell Larry.
EVERY FREAKIN' TIME.
Larry gently reminds me it is really only two times.
Yesterday it was Gus’s goggles. Today, it is the flip flop.
THE CARELESSNESS OF HUMANITY IS MORE THAN I CAN BEAR .
And the locker room floor is slimy and wet and riddled with god knows what kind of diseases oh GOD I WISH I HAD MY FLIP FLOP.
Gus is bickering with me.
He has turned this whole thing around in his mind. We are leaving the pool, he thinks, because I am mad that someone took my flip flop. He is squeezing me over this injustice. I am at code yellow, and he squeezes me to code orange, and there is no telling what is on the bottom of my feet. No telling.
We see friends on our way out of the pool. I am being rude. Really rude. I know I should smile and say hello and goodbye and how are you and see you later—but how can I? How can I speak when there is oil spilling into the Gulf AND my flip flop has gone missing? Bad stuff is happening everywhere.
I am out of my mind over this flip flop.
We get in the car. Gus is still mad that I'm making him leave because I'm mad and I'm mad because he doesn't understand THAT'S NOT WHY I'M MAD. It's the flip flop!
THAT’S NO REASON, he says.
But it is reason enough for me!
FLIP FLOP + GONE = 4.
(That equation will only make sense if you read this.)
OH my poor flip flop.
Larry really wishes I would get over the flip flop. He really does. I can see him beside me, driving and wishing. And hoping. Hoping I get over this soon.
This flip flop rage.
And I really try. I try to think about something else. I remove the one flip flop I have stubbornly left on my foot SO PEOPLE CAN SEE MY LOSS, and I try to think about the music.
About Eric Clapton.
He shot the sheriff.
But he did not shoot the deputy.
I’d like to shoot the motherfucker who took my flip flop.
My mind is like a CD stuck on repeat. I try to advance to the next song—a song that isn’t about my beloved flip flop—but the button is stuck, jammed, with little bits of grit and lint and potato chips around its edges.
I Am. Just. So. Mad. About this. %$^#&%Q FLIP FLOP.
Fifteen minutes have passed since I realized She was gone.
Larry pulls into the driveway. I go inside and change out of my bathing suit, into my favorite shorts and a t-shirt and a ratty old pair of flip flops. Before heading back to the car, I check myself out in the mirror.
Have I lost weight?
Could it be?
Hmmmmm. Yes. I think I like what I see here.
A full turn in the mirror. An irrepressible smile. I can't help myself. I step out of one shallow pool of thought and daintily into another.