The monarch of widowhood, Queen Victoria, was the pioneer of self imposed isolation upon being dealt the very unlucky hand of bereavement. Undertaking her public duties she hid behind stoic viels and layers of lace to conceal her intense grief. She wallowed and bathed in melancholy and set out living only to honour her beloved Albert. I tried to mirror the master with a 21st century update. My version of her viels were my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.
Laws of physics and perception were cast aside following the weeks and months after my world collapsed. When I wore my sunglasses, I was invisible. Coupled with headphones, this killer combination would give me the ultimate disappearing act. I was a knight, a grieving champion, I set out on my path, I would be gone for days, walking round stealthily avoiding contact with any other human being. I learnt quickly to disappear into backgrounds and shield myself from any attention.
In my enormous giddy depression, I genuinely believed I was walking up and down streets completely unnoticed. Invisibility had made me believe that I mattered to no one and that no one cared enough to look beyond the sadness cemented into my eyes. My identity was lost the moment the man I adored took his last breath, I was no longer important, my existence not valued enough to warrant being acknowledged.
I kept walking. Battered by wind, snow, hail, sleet and rain. No weather element would prevent my trusty personal armour from being placed on my face. I'd never know exactly where I was going. I never had a plan or a route decided. I lived day to day, hour by hour on adraenilin, full fat coke and lentil soup. I survived on running errands, creating problems that needed to be solved and scouring the internet for a better life and better opportunities in a crazed panic, avoiding all human contact.
I looked into mirrors barely able to recognise myself. I was quite literally half the person I used to be. My partner dying was the best diet I had ever been on. I was alarmingly losing weight on a weekly basis. My body ravaged by shock had overnight developed a brand new metabolism and an allergy to dairy. It's something the glossy magazines would never dare write about, but if you want to lose some serious weight get your significant other to pop their clogs and the weight will fall off you. I had changed beyond measure and knew that the person I had been for the last twenty-five years wouldn't be around anymore. I was lost, helpless and completely alone. I didn't even know myself. Thank goodness for my sunglasses they helped shield me from the harsh ever-evolving bustle of every day life.
It was the strangest feeling having someone look at me and recognise me for being alive. For so long I had forgotten that I was. I remember the day very well, it was a moderately rainy Tuesday in January. I was wearing a maroon floral velvet dress, my hair scraped up in a messy blonde bun. I was sitting drinking a soya milk latte in the darkest corner of a grey cobbled street. I had blanked out everything around me. My eternal focus was the bruised table edge. I hadn't noticed the incredibly handsome man sit at the table next to me. I glanced up sleepily at a blurry shape that had settled in my left eye and was met with a devilishly charming smile and a knowing wave. I froze in my seat. I tightly closed my eyes in the hope that my blurry vision would mask the charming smile, it didn't. He remained, still smiling. My cheeks started to burn with anxiety. Not knowing how to behave or act, I left my latte, put on my sunglasses and bolted out the coffee shop. Pre widow status, I would have been elated with such attention, especially from such a dapper man, but this was a different time, I was a different person, and so I wept. This interaction had probably lasted about five minutes in total, but it had turned my stomach and shook my very core. My sunglasses graciously protected me as tears rolled down my burning cheeks, I returned to the safety of my bed and hid there for the next three days.
During my three days of contemplation and dismay a cloud of consciousness floated in my window. Cuddling a cup of tea I realised that after months of living deliriously depressed and convinced of my lack of existence, I did in actual fact exist. The man in the coffee shop had forced me to see that I needed to return. I had to come back to life. I needed to let people see me, that meant the sunglasses had to come off. I had to face my demons, my shortcomings and my audience with honest budding green eyes. And I did.
My sunglasses are still my savior, but only when it is beautiful and bright or when I have had one to many gins the night before. When I meet people in the street now, I remove my trusty personal armour like I am doffing a hat in gratitude to the conversation about to unravel. I finally let people see me. My soul can blossom in front of strangers or companions. I don't need to hide from anyone anymore. I am happy to be seen again, particularly by handsome men.