She approached the clearance shoes purposefully, head high and chin out, as if daring them to try something. After a moment she saw them for what they were—pitiful poorly-made shoes that would make her feet hurt and wouldn’t even last the season. Her shoulders sagged as she started scanning the messy racks for anything that she would possibly consider wearing.
And then she saw them, coyly peeking out of the battered box. Shiny and a classic black unlike the other gaudily colorful others begging for attention. These shoes were patiently waiting for someone to recognize their sleek beauty and appreciate them for what they were. They were overlooked and underestimated in this place. She could help them take their rightful place in the shoe kingdom!
She reached out and tentatively touched the pointed toe with the tip of her finger. She was surprised that she could not see the spark that the contact generated, sending shivers up her arms and into her nipples, causing them to mirror the points on the shoes.
Should she try these on or was it too dangerous? She stood for a full minute merely touching the shoe with her finger, appraising the situation. She could walk away at any moment—yes, she could. Just to test this, she removed her finger and backed away. Yes, this felt OK. She didn’t need them. She could stop at any time.
Just then, another customer shuffled up beside her and asked if she wanted them. Suddenly it all changed. Eyes wide and teeth bared, she jerked her head in the dull woman’s direction and hissed, “YES!” They were her shoes and no one could touch them, especially this lumpen woman who would wear them once and throw them in a heap with her dollar-bin flip-flops and dust bunnies. Clawlike, her hand shot out and grabbed them out of their prison of a box, holding them cradled against her breasts. The woman shrugged and picked up a pair of cork heels.
Maybe she couldn’t handle this, after all. She had been willing to rip that woman’s arms off to protect these $14.99 shoes! She shook her head and tried to laugh it off. She motioned to place the shoes back in their box, but paused. Why not try them on? She couldn’t just leave now after making it this far. It was practically her duty to M to at least try.
Scanning the store, she found a secluded corner with a bench and shoe mirror, which gave her a great view of herself up to her shins. Sitting down on the cracked bench, she slipped off her utilitarian sneakers and ankle socks. It had been so long since she had worn anything but sneakers and crocs, which she chose specifically for their frumpiness. She had worn new thigh-high stockings for this outing. She paused, shoes in hand, taking stock of herself like an alcoholic trading a one-year chip for a shot of whisky. Did she really want to do this?
She turned her attention to the shoes she had so desperately wanted only minutes before. They had lost some of their power in the full buzzing fluorescent lighting. They already had a scuff on one side and already looked slightly battered even though they were as yet never owned. She sighed, placed them carefully on the floor and simultaneously slipped both of her feet into them.
It was not as she remembered it. The warm tingly sensation running up the inside of her legs to meet between her legs was pleasant, but not overwhelming. Slowly, she stood to see her feet and lower legs reflected in the floor mirror. The heels were high and she teetered slightly causing a tiny nervous flutter in her belly, but what she saw in that mirror was disappointing.
It was a relief, in a way, that she was not transported as she used to be by this act. No matter how electrifying the experience was, the loss of control was frightening and ultimately self-destructive. She was happy that she could report back to M how she had handled it, but also felt nostalgic for the passion that was once part of her life. This must be what be what it means to finally grow up.
She gingerly stepped out of the shoes, picking them up as one would a dead cat found in the yard—with pity, gentleness and a sadness for the end of potential. She placed them back on the rack and passed the woman she had fought over them for only minutes ago. “They’re all yours,” she said, but the woman pretended not to hear and was now considering a pair of puffy gold sneakers.
It was time to go home. M would be waiting to hear how she was. As she walked home, she tried to sort out all of the conflicting feelings inside—relief, sadness, pride at overcoming an obstacle, disappointment at not being able to feel that passion again. She knew that of all people M would understand her. She had to; she was all she had left.