Dear Sneakers Hanging Over a Power Line on East Lake Sammamish Parkway,
How’s the view from up there? I’ve only observed this stretch of road through the window of my minivan. I’ve caught glimpses of tile-roofed houses and, beyond the houses, glints of sunlight on water. There are seven miles of lakefront property along East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Because Pacific Northwesterners like to feel democratic, a public bike trail meanders all seven miles like a hem sewn by an inept seamstress. One day I will replace the bike I sold when we moved to Washington and ride the East Lake Sammamish Trail. I’ll muster the resolve to enter a bicycle shop and explain to the rope-muscled store owner what I desire: a comfortable bike for a middle-aged woman who does not own Lycra shorts or a Gore-Tex jersey but who nonetheless longs to pedal into the horizon on a gently rolling strip of asphalt.
The Nebraska town where I grew up occupies an area of 2.2 square miles. If you biked every block of that town, you would not find a single million-dollar home. Seven miles of such homes seems as improbable as a city built from gold. Can you tell from up there who lives in those houses? Can you trace the path that led them there? Can you see where it diverges from the path to my fixer-upper on the hill or to the corner of East Lake Sammamish Parkway where a woman flies signs for handouts?
As a teenager in Nebraska, I lined the perimeter of my room with funky shoes: leopard-spotted Vans, clear vinyl oxfords with glow-in-the-dark soles, pointy-toed Pilgrim shoes, platform sandals with yellow straps. They marched along my walls, one foot in front of the other, as if they knew where they were going. A pair of red, yellow, and blue sneakers—color-blocked like bowling shoes—followed me from Nebraska throughout the Midwest and eventually to the Seattle suburb where I now live. I wear them when I want to feel like Wonder Woman, like a protagonist instead of a breadwinner’s sidekick or a character from my children’s backstory.
If I hover beside you in my invisible jet, maybe we will see a woman standing at an upstairs window in a lakefront house. She feels it too, this problem we still won’t name, this thumb prodding us along our paths. You’ve seen her gazing down the trail as if traveling backward past the trappings of her life—past appointments with landscape architects and holiday lighting specialists, past her children’s karate lessons and chess tournaments, past personal trainers and Botox ads at the symphony—to a version of herself with dreams.
And you, tethered to that wire, do you recall your ambulatory dreams? Does tightrope walking give you a kick or do you long to be footloose? Contemplating your origin, I audition a cast of characters who may have flung you onto the wire. A gang member claiming his territory? A grieving friend commemorating a lost life? No. The role goes to an invisible woman who arrives by bicycle from a street corner or a stucco mansion or somewhere in between. She tosses you skyward, like Mary Tyler Moore’s hat, breaking the fetters of her pedestrian existence and daring herself to soar.
Tell me, is there room up there for some color-blocked companions?
Keep flying high,