[A short story from the Lost Shoe Chronicles]
A young woman so small that she seemed more boy than woman stood on the sidewalk near a bus stop in the mid-1990s. She wore a black t-shirt with a band logo splashed violently across the front. The sleeves of the t-shirt had been ripped off at the shoulders and her skinny but muscular arms were exposed to the night air. A young man was standing a few feet away from her and they were shouting profanities at one another. The venom in his young-man voice flew in her face like a punch in the jaw. She spit the venom back at him, and because it frightened the immature view he had of himself, the young man threw a bottle at her and stormed away. She tried to dodge the bottle, but it grazed her arm anyway. There would be a bruise later, but for now she was more mad than injured.
She stood just beyond the circle of light from a streetlamp, seething mad. An old lady, who had been watching the argument from behind her lace curtains, watched the girl suspiciously until she was pulled away from the window by her husband, who wanted nothing to do with the squabble that had just taken place outside their home.
The girl, who needed some kind of release, caught sight of her Doc Martens. The shoes that the two of them had picked out together. The shoes that had made her feel invincible. The shoes that had allowed her to let her inner-self roam free and unafraid, in a life riddled with fear of inner-self. She saw the hole in the toe that had begun to let water into it when it rained. She saw the ugly scruff marks that she had been so rebelliously proud of when she’d worn them to her senior formal, with her long pink prom dress and her freshly shaved hair. Before it had been fashionable and moderately acceptable to do that, she inwardly sneered at the media for making it all popular and trendy, when it was supposed to be empowering and non-conforming.
Suddenly she bent over and rapidly and somewhat clumsily removed one and then the other of the boots. She looked for someplace to throw them. She contemplated the window of a nearby house but decided that wouldn’t be satisfying. She looked up and saw the wires. Quickly she tied together the laces together and then tossed them up. On her first try they cleared the wires and the laces caught at just the right angle so that the shoes went loop loop loop until they were securely dangling, stranded overhead.
“AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!” She yelled at the top of her lungs with a freedom she hadn’t felt in a while. And then she walked away in a much better mood not even noticing the cold cement through her thick wool socks.
Days? weeks? months? later I sat at the bus stop looking up at those Doc Martens swinging gently back and forth, the overcast sky for a backdrop. I could see the scene play out as if I’d been there; though of course I had not. In truth, I had no way of knowing how they’d gotten there. A friend had told me the dangling shoes indicated a death had happened there, another that it meant there was a drug house nearby, no the first had argued only tennis shoes mean that. But as I turned my attention to look for an approaching bus, I noticed the curtains flick shut in a window across the street; disapproval wafting my way as they settled into place. I smiled and looked down at my own shoes. Drab, characterless, sensible black flats. Maybe it was time for something new.
Categories: Short Fiction