The Shoe Department

S. L. Garber-Ortiz


June 21, 2017


The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Lao Tzu


L&G 1What was I thinking? Nordstrom’s shoe department…during a mega sale…and it’s Saturday! I must be out of my flippin’ mind.

I’m on the hunt for a pair of red mules. Pushing through the herd of bargain-hungry shoppers, I spot my query and close in. Hmm, good toe cleavage. Uhhh. Wait a minute. Where’s the…other shoe? It didn’t walk off by itself…

Amidst the banquettes and aisles littered with rejected try-ons, sales clerks run relays between the stockroom and their finicky patrons.

I flag a clerk. Overwhelmed by the bedlam, he runs for cover. One mule shy of a pair, I return to the jungle of shoe racks to prowl the floor looking for its mate. The way I went searching for my soul once and found it—amongst the discarded rubble of my past.

Today, I’m on a different kind of mission.

That’s when I see you. Well, not your face, your feet, taking a pair of strappy sandals for a stroll.

I look up. Our eyes meet; we smile.

“Lose something…?”

“Yes, what’s left of my mind, and I doubt I’ll find it under this rack. Actually, I’m looking for the mate to this shoe,” I hold up the mule. “Have you seen it?”

“No, I haven’t. But I’ll keep an eye out. What size is it?”

“Seven.” I slide my foot into the mule to model it.

“Ooh, very sexy. Good choice. I like the color and the sassy buckle, too.”

At first glance, I appear easygoing, and a savvy shopper—much like you. You might even take the initiative to strike up a conversation. And I would respond with something like:

“Those shoes look so cute on you! If you don’t buy them, I will.”

While you try on shoes—and I keep my eyes peeled for the missing mule— we’ll kibitz. You’ll feel comfortable talking to me, as though you’ve known me forever. We’ll discuss the book I’m writing about my travel adventures. You’ll tell me about the vacation you’re shopping for, show me the outfits you’ve purchased for it, and by the end of the conversation, you’ll buy those sandals. We’ll part, and I’ll likely leave you thinking:

What a fascinating lady, a world traveler, an aspiring author… I’ll bet she has an exciting life.

First impressions can be deceiving. I know firsthand. I’ve been the mistress of disguise—a veritable one-woman masquerade ball. It’s all a matter of a simple sleight of hand.

Now, this isn’t to say I don’t live life on the edge, or enjoy the company of close friends. I do. At least I do now. Everyone has a before and after story.

And this is mine.

Although when a dear friend asked if I would be authoring under a nom de plume or my full name, it gave me pause. I had spent forty-two years as Lynn Ortiz. It seemed obvious—at least to me. But nothing about my life has been obvious.

Take my last name, for instance: ‘Garber-Ortiz’ ‘Garber’ is my maiden name. And while Ortiz is someone’s married name, it isn’t mine. I made use of it the way you wrap a scarf or slip on a turtleneck to conceal a scar or birthmark.

But who is Lynn Ortiz? She wasn’t born. She evolved into a Holly Golightly personality, never getting too close, always deflecting. Underneath, I was a frightened and fragmented soul. Every fiber violently yanked from its intended circuit board.

I wasn’t always that way though. Something happened. It always does.

The Summer Wind