Written on February 20th on a flight from Grand Rapids to Dallas

There is a young man in 13C, doughy and pudgy with round reddish cheeks and a youthful shaggy haircut chuckling at something he’s listening to on his ipod. He’s visibly and unashamedly enjoying a private joke the rest of us are missing. I look over my shoulder several times hoping to lock eyes. I think he would really like to share his private joke with someone, but we aren’t accustomed to making eye contact in public places so even though he looks my direction several times, he never senses that I’m watching him and would gratefully share his laughter. His seatmate is engrossed in a word hunt puzzle clipped from the local newspaper of the last town he visited. I can tell he’s been traveling on business. He has all of the trappings – his computer, an expensive watch, a textured, starched white shirt and well-polished shoes. The woman in 11B is engrossed in a conversation with her seatmate, but I’m not as interested in their conversation as I am in her shoes. They are a shiny-strapped low heel pump, the color of half-dried blood. Sorry if that is an offensive way to describe a color, but they aren’t red and they aren’t burgundy. They are somewhere in between. I am not a shoe person, but I find them fascinating and I’m dying to ask where she bought them.

The young man in 13C has laid his head back and is either sleeping or listening to something less stimulating. His seatmate has either finished his word hunt or given up because he, too is resting his eyes even though we exchanged smiles just before his head rocked back onto those famous adjustable headrests that American Airlines likes to tout.

Red shoes and prematurely balding dude (sorry, but that’s the best way to describe my limited view of him) are still talking. She’s got a copy of “The Mapmaker’s Widow” on her tray, but she seems content with the conversation so the book lies untouched.

Ok, I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to know where she got those fabulous shoes. Timidly, I tapped her on her shoulder and admitted my lust for her shoes. “WHERE did you get those shoes, I have to know!” I braced myself – it would have to be some exotic store in some large city I would never visit. Perhaps she would tell me they are from a high end designer whose creations I could never afford. No story I imagined prepared me for her answer.

“Payless.”

“You’re kidding!”

“No,” she replied gleaming. “Every girl should have a pair of ruby slippers at least once in her life.”

Ruby. That’s what they are! Not half-dried blood, but ruby like the jewel. The kind of slipper every girl ought to have at least once in her life. I leaned back in my seat, made a mental note to hit a Payless shoe store as soon as I could, and she returned to her conversation with her seatmate. 13 B & C are fast asleep, mouths wide open. Looks like a good place to be. Think I’ll do the same. Another hour without a toilet and most likely I’ll miss my connection in Dallas. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch the last flight home. In the meantime, might as well sleep. Looks like a long night ahead.

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