Volume 8 | Issue 2 | Fall 2007
Walk a Mile: Five Very Short Stories About Four
Pairs of Shoes and One Pair of FeetCombat Boots
He called them my “lesbian boots” and asked me if I was going out to look for a girlfriend. I guess it never occurred to him to wonder why I needed so much leather and rubber between my skin and the world. His jealousy and anger were palpable; they fell like rain drops on my skin. He always waited until the last minute to get his zingers in.
The boots never fit right, but he’d never know. I took the blister and the chafed calf rather than let him see me change into something else. Not the pointy-toed microfiber numbers – they made my ankles look delicate and hugged the contours of foot and leg. Not loafers – frumpy and comfortable and uninteresting in the extreme. Not sneakers or slides or casual flats.
I wore the boots to a bar to meet my friends. We sat on the floor and quietly mocked the opening act and his look – Emo Glasses Collection Frames #8, songs about the downtrodden and his ex-girlfriend and her box of insecurities. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt and forgot about the way my left little toe fell asleep when I sat cross-legged on the concrete.
The singer we’d come to see took the stage, and we stood up and danced and sang along, sneaking glances at each other to smile with glee at being there. I bumped my shoulder lightly against Laura’s, and she traded the bump to Annie, who passed it on to Alanna – just a little nudge that said “I’m glad I’m here with you.”
After the show, we chatted for a bit before going our separate ways. I drove home and sang along to the radio, window down to let the summer breeze ruffle my hair.
The house was dark and quiet; he’d already gone to bed. I took my boots off in the laundry room. I slipped between the cool sheets and spent a few minutes looking at the wall of his back in the golden light that slipped in around the blinds, flexing my numb toes against the mattress for a moment before I slept.
Red Flip-Flops, sequined
I found them under the bed. The soles were chewed, but the red ribbons were intact, sequins sparkling. They cost five dollars at Old Navy. They weren’t all that comfortable, either.
I cried anyway.
I cried because I was mad at the dog. I cried because I was mad at all those other dogs – the ones I couldn’t save. The ones that died in shelters and on roads and in backyards. I cried for the one I lost and never found.
I cried because the bed was in a different house – not the house we’d chosen together, not the house with the vaulted ceiling in the great room, the huge master bath with the clawfoot tub. The house that was supposed to hold our future, shelter our children, watch me publish my first book, cover his beloved motorcycle.
I cried for the other shoes – the ones that had lined the shelves in the walk-in closet and now lived in plastic bins in the shed. I cried for the keepsakes that went into the trash, the million snotty tissues that witnessed the final arguments.
I cried because they were ruined and they’d never really matched anything anyway and they’d been gone a month before I noticed.
They were grass-stained and had no laces. The cotton was brittle from bleach and the insoles were cracked from repeated washings. I wore them when I mowed the lawn.
The front lawn was Bermuda grass. It goes dormant in the winter and you have to cut it really short the first time. It’s called scalping, and it makes the thatchy chaff blow up from underneath, filling the air with dust. He had allergies, so I always mowed it that first time.
The corner of the house met the wooden fence in the side yard, making a corner almost too tight to turn the mower in. I almost always rubbed the wheel against the siding, leaving a black mark. He hated that. He hated that I couldn’t work the weed-whacker properly, always gouging the fence and jumping away from the whirring noise. Sometimes I wondered if he liked anything about me.
The back yard was fescue – tall and blue-green year round. It grew thick, and the mower would bog down and I’d have to empty the bag a lot, spilling out damp clods of grass that smelled like fresh-cut green beans or the crisp rind of a watermelon. Down by the back fence, it smelled like dog shit from the three Dobermans (Dobermen?) that lived there: Sophie, Max and Ruby, and the trees grew low enough that I sometimes got my hair caught in the branches.
The back yard had a slope, and the mower would pull me down the hill, my slick-soled Keds slipping and sliding. Sometimes he’d come home when I was still out there and stand on the porch. He’d smile at me then – he liked it when I did things to make our home nicer. I never gave a damn about the grass, but I liked to see those smiles.
I bought them in 1999. They were on sale, and it seemed like a versatile color. They sat in my closet for three more years until I wore them on my wedding day.
They were old and new; the dress and veil were borrowed – rented, actually – and I wore a blue gemstone pendant around my neck. It was all very traditional for a Vegas wedding. We didn’t do things like other people. Our timing was always off. We lived together for years, we bought a house together before we got engaged. We married at a casino and honeymooned on a fishing trip. I wore silver shoes and waterproof mascara.
We didn’t dance at our wedding. We had hot dogs and beer an hour before the ceremony, and we laughed through most of the words. We changed clothes and saw a show and had a steak dinner, then lay in our big bed and laughed at each other in the tacky mirror on the ceiling.
I still have the blue gemstone and the silver shoes, and I’ve never worn either again.
I’m a child of the South – I grew up barefoot. We played barefoot as children, and we could walk across an asphalt driveway at high noon without flinching. We ran on grass and concrete and gravel and dirt. Mom made us wash our feet before she’d let us back in the house in the summer – standing at the hose pipe with wind-snarled hair and sunburned noses, scrubbing away the dirt with orange Dial soap and the washcloths that had been retired to the carwash pile.
He wore his shoes, even in the house. Mine were the first thing to come off the minute I hit the door.
I’ll go barefoot. I’ll take my chances.
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The views expressed in The Oklahoma Review do not necessarily correspond to those of Cameron University, and the university's support of this magazine should not be seen as an endorsement of any philosophy other than faith in -- and support of -- free expression. The content of this publication may not be reproduced without the written consent of The Oklahoma Review or the authors. © 2007 The Oklahoma Review