In high school, I loved to wear the color black. It’s slimming, mature, and easy to match. To go with my five pairs of black pants, I bought black New Balance sneakers. The ‘N’ on each side of the sneaker was outlined in a light pink. I wore them everyday. At a school with a dress code, shoes like these weren’t allowed. But I could easily get away with it because my black shoes blended in with my black pants. The black laces hid underneath the pant leg. I still have the sneakers today; five years later, they’re like slippers.
I felt like a supermodel in those shoes. They were black and sexy, like those shoes Kate Moss can pull off, with smokey eyeshadow and lipstick and mascara to match. The clicking they made with their 11 cm. heels was the soundtrack to that feeling, the flashes of cameras, heat. The halls of my highschool were our catwalk that night. The world was ours. We truly were supermodels back then, us seniors, the owners of the show, the hosts of the party. We were awkward and in high school, and still living at home, but the world revolved around us that night, and we revolved around the shoes.
These cowboy boots:
Helped me fight gravity.
Let me ride horses through mountain passes.
Made music when I tapped against the yellow line on the subway platform.
Showed me the world three inches higher.
Let me glide over dance floors.
Resisted all weather.
Molded to my flat feet.
Wore down to my socks.
Made me feel like I owned the street.
Have been to four continents.
Cannot stand up by themselves.
Are shredding at the top.
Have permanent asymmetrical deformities.
Need a shoe shine.
Slowly smell even worse.
Have lasted me five years.
Are too tattered to keep.
I can see his boots by the door, the red rug beneath them a shade darker where the snow has melted. I think of my father rising at his typical early hour, putting on his coat, bending down to tie worn laces. He scrapes the snow off of his car, off of my mother’s, and then he shovels the driveway, a long, sloping stretch made narrow by towering banks of snow.
By the time we leave for school, the snow has stopped, but his boots are still wet, the leather dark and smooth. He puts them on, and we go.
The hot pink foamy plastic of my Crocs is a familiar feel, yet I cant bring myself to sport them around the Middlebury campus. They remind me of home, high school, summer, track meets, sliding my tired, sweaty feet into them after long workouts at the gym, walking down the streets of Nashua to the public pool, getting the mail on those muggy summer afternoons. They don’t belong here. Everyday, I glance up at them waiting patiently on my closet shelf for when they will get to surround my feet once again. Not here though, not in Vermont. Not now.
Black and grey with yellow edging and navy laces – they were my first pair of Chad Muska’s pro shoe, my idol. They were Es’s, a popular brand at the time, and the soles were worn down – smooth – from non-stop ollies and kickflips that caused the rubber to rip against the grainy, sparkling black grip tape. The laces were split for similar reasons, and a patch of duct tape – colored with black marker – was placed there to protect further damage. A crisp twenty dollar from Mommy sat in the custom designed pouch in the tongue, probably meant for doobie.
In Florida, I posed for photos next to every palm tree, and indulged my palate in exotic Caribbean cuisine. For my image of a good tourist to be complete, I also needed to buy something Florida-like, something sunny and bouncy. In a random department store, these green-silverish flip-flops with straps that go around the calves caught my eyes. For only 16 bucks, I bought awesome American flip-flops to brag about in front of my Bulgarian friends. Oh, they were made in China! Well, they were still pretty awesome! Or no? When I went back home, everyone wore the same flip-flops!
I have an obsession with impractical shoes. As a kid, I refused to wear anything but patent leather party shoes. Black, shiny, buckled, uncomfortable, susceptible to rain and snow. I grew out of them bimonthly. I think my mum wanted to rip my throat out every time I asked “Is it time for new shoes?”
I now lust after red high heels. They put me three inches higher with a burlesque hip twitch. I wear lipstick to match- a shade aptly named Alexandria. Were you to photograph me in black and white you’d still want to shade in the red.
I went to the Holocaust museum in Washington , D.C. with my Hebrew school and again in the seventh grade on a field trip. There are some pretty horrifying things there. Touching. Gruesome. Shocking. There are short walls around some of the footage screens. “Think about it,” the walls silently warn. “Are you sure you want to look and see this?” In most cases, in seventh grade, I wasn’t sure. The thing that stuck with me, though, was not whatever terrifying images were guarded by the walls. It was the shoes of the dead. A whole room, without any walls.
I used to have them all: pumps, flats, sneakers, sandals, high heels, flat shoes, green, orange, black, gold, red, brown and etc… it was a must to have shoes for any of the color combination I favored. There were shoes to impress, shoes to relax, shoes for native clothes, shoes for jobs, shoes for showers and etc… There were many. But recently, I have entered this world called adulthood. In that world, you pay for everything, which means you must work. Work, however, is something that I don’t like. To reduce the idea of working, responsibilities, which include fewer shoes, comes into play.
I know summer is coming when the tops of my feet become tanned in odd shapes. There is the classic Birkenstock tan: toes browned and a soft U-shaped tan in the middle of the foot. There is also the slightly more complex Chaco tan, a set of triangular shapes at various angles on the foot. The other sign of summer is the bottoms of my feet. By the end of summer, sand, dirt, rocks and pebbles have worn the soles into tougher versions of themselves, making it difficult to put a pair of shoes back on when November rolls around.
I am no seamstress–I tried unsuccessfully to take shop in junior high instead of Home Economics, screaming discrimination, but it was my bad sewing karma that got me barred from the Home Ec room, the sewing machines jerking to a halt whenever I entered. Despite my ineptness, with needle and thread I attacked old jeans and outlandish velour fabrics and scraps from scavenged gowns, fashioning mini skirts to complement gold fishnet tights and chunky shoes, and my favorite, a wine-striped maxi-skirt saved for those days when nothing would do but to wear my plum suede tall tall tall tie-up boots.
Shoes cramp my style. My toes are claustrophobic and need the freedom to breathe more than the rank staleness of twice worn sock. Flip flops open the world to possibility. The mudlicious winter coats my toes is gooey, wet slime. But it dries and cakes off. No worries. Toe socks accentuate each individual’s characteristics. Peep toes and strappy knock offs shoot daggers into the balls of my feet. Three inches of cold metal sets me staggering on uneven pavement. Flip flops ground me with nothing but a half inch of rubber. Stubbed toes linger and bathwater runs like a murky dark river.
They can beat the rhythm of hip-hop. The music streams from the speakers straight down to the soles of your shoes. Slap and pound and beat into the ground. They can feel the rhythm of the beat and bang it out. They can feel they can feel they can feel. They can feel the rhythm and it sneaks inside of you. Straight up through the sole of your shoes. Out through the laces the beat keeps chasing. Into your jeans and climbs right on up the seams. There it enters your thighs and tears into your blood stream. Pumping, flowing, moving, can’t get out.