The Walk Home
The clomping of my shoes is the only sound as I walk my way through Palermo. I pull back the sleeve of my jacket to check the time: 6:27am. I’ve been out all night again and I’ve still got about 40 minutes worth of walking ahead of me. Perfecto.
A few more blocks pass and shopkeepers have started to appear, one and all they uncoil hoses and spray down the sidewalk in front of their businesses, cleansing the cement and pushing the trash that has accumulated overnight into the streets where it will no longer be their problem. I keep my pace steady, splashing through the spreading puddles, tracking heel-to-toe footprints behind me.
Fast-forward 20 minutes and I’m at Ave Santa Fe. It’s a straight-shot back to my apartment, so I space out a bit, allowing my mind to wander, my steps serving as a metronome for thoughts without syncopation. I stop at the edge of a curb to wait for a red light and my heel slides forward 3 inches on the uneven surface. Damn soles. This has happened before.
The sour truth that I’ve been trying not to acknowledge is that my shoes are actually wearing down quite quickly. When I first bought them, the bottoms were completely slick, with not a speck of traction, so I walked them around outside and scuffed them up on some gravel and took a little sandpaper to them. Problem solved.
But here I am again, wearing the shoes that I love and slip-sliding across grocery store tiles, hardwood floors, and tightly woven carpet. And oddly angled curbs. Can’t forget about the curbs.
My real problem here is not that these things have nearly sent me sailing down three different flights of stairs, or that they are constantly leaving me flailing when I come to an abrupt stop while shopping for granola bars at the local Disco (a grocery store chain). The problem is that I love the look and feel of them so much that I haven’t replaced them, despite their obvious flaws.
Let me say it again: I love these shoes. Because they are sassy. And because they have interesting seams. And zippers. ZIPPERS! A goal of mine for this project was to not wear anything black while traveling, so I had to get some cool brown shoes that could be worn casually or in a nicer setting for my trip. I wanted shoes that would be comfortable (check), stylish (check), have solid construction (check), and not shoot me in to traffic as if I’m trying to walk on ice (no check).
They speak to me in the way only a design that fits your personal aesthetics possibly can, and as a result I’ve been ashamed of myself for breaking one of the tenets of my project, which is to own the best, most practical objects I possibly can (because I don’t have much). It’s time to make things right.
Tomorrow I will head into a local shoe repair shop and see if they can somehow give my zapatos some tread. If not, I’ll ditch my beautiful shoes (even though the insoles are silver) and replace them with something more functional. If I can, I’ll dance around Santa Fe until the policia drag me away for public intoxication.
Either way I’ll enjoy these last few hours of slipping and sliding my way around town, bumping into strangers, knocking things over and generally having a really good (and sassy) time, shamed no more now that I have a plan of action.
Update: May 30, 2016
A lot of what eventually became my first narrative nonfiction book, My Exile Lifestyle, stemmed from these types of writings. Pieces that, to my 31-year-old eyes, seem ridiculous and silly and a little pointless. But at the time, I was trying on narrative for size, and laying the rudiments of what would later become a fondness for storytelling.
Also: not wearing black for a year was one of my early lifestyle experiments. It went so well that I don’t think I bought a black article of clothing for three or four years, and today I think the only thing I own that’s black is my peacoat. I came to find that I was much better represented, aesthetically, by a very different palette.
I still enjoy a good pair of brown leather shoes, though.