OK, so look. From the pants up, I’m a mess. I know it and you know it.
I don’t even know what size pants I am. That’s the honest to goodness truth. What is the length of my inseam? I can recite the preamble to the Constitution, the poem “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud” by William Wordsworth, all twenty-one counties in New Jersey, and the lyrics to “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” All of them. I believe that canon of knowledge exempts me from having to remember how long it is from my V to the floor, and I won’t be convinced otherwise.
My shirts are more appropriate for second graders than grown adults. I know this because I still wear a turquoise graphic tee from when I was eight, despite its prominent pit stains and dishonest announcement that “I ❤ My Hermit Crab.” The truth is that I used to ❤ my hermit crab until I realized he didn’t possess the ability to convey affection or do anything interesting whatsoever, and was essentially a haunted shell waiting to die in a prison of colorful pebbles. Hermit crabs are every child’s adorable introduction to nihilism.
And if you’re looking for something fancier than t-shirts in my closet, just stop right now. There are no blouses in there, period. What even is a blouse? By the way it rolls off the tongue with such feminine wiles, I just assume it comes with mandatory ruffles and menstrual cramps.
I cut my own hair and don’t wear makeup, not because I believe in the power of my natural womanhood or something equally triumphant, but because I already have too many time-consuming hobbies. I don’t have the gumption to care about two more things. Lo! The very idea of using an eyelash curler without hours of supervised training? Reckless. And with only twenty-four hours in a day, who has the time?
By your pitying expressions, I can see you don’t want me to give up. But don’t you see I already have? It’s a lost cause. It’s too late. Beautiful people, you’ve done your best, but please go on without me. I’ll see you on the other side.
But as I cast myself away in dramatic fashion, a leprous shrew donning only the name and uneven skin God gave me, can camera two just zoom in on my feet?
Go ahead. Get a good look at these glorious kicks. I am not fucking around down here.
Nikes, Converse, Inkkas. High tops, low tops, ankle highs. Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your feet. These sneakers are the truth, the light, the path to freedom. All you have to do is walk.
This is not just some new obsession, either. I’ve loved sneakers since I was just a young pup.
I fought my mom like crazy when it was time for back-to-school shopping, but sneakers was a different story altogether. Heaven forbid I needed a new coat — I’d let my arms droop to the sides in protest, letting out exasperated sighs with every trip to the fitting room, hating every outfit, and begging for mercy. My body language was worn and beaten, but I never did drag my feet. I couldn’t risk wearing down the soles of my all-black BK Dymacels.
In first grade, I had this amazing pair of high tops, knock-off Chuck Taylors that I got from a Marshalls or TJ Maxx or some other store where weird shit falls into a pile. They were beautiful. The canvas had been airbrushed purple to orange to yellow, like the shades of a sunset. And then on top of that, in true 1988 fashion, they had been tagged and detailed with neon puffy paint in hot pink and green and yellow and sparkly blue, then braided and looped to perfection with teal laces. And if that wasn’t enough for you, at the top of all four eyelets was a brightly colored plastic star with sparkles in it (obviously), creating a veritable galaxy of pizzazz.
As an overconfident seven year-old, I couldn’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t want these sneakers. And yet, for some reason — call it luck, destiny, or something more akin to terror — no one else had liberated them from the snoozing pile of penny loafers and Mary Janes. When I slid my foot into these shoes, angels sang and transported me back to Kansas and the curse was lifted and other metaphors. They were everything I wanted to be. Bright and loud, full of confidence, and accustomed to/deserving of attention, like a charismatic salutatorian.
Perhaps it was just serendipity, but at the time, it really seemed as if someone had been commissioned to make these sneakers for me.
“Pauper! Fashion for me some sneakers, and make them identical to my personality. When you think it’s time to edit, embellish! When it’s already too loud, add a vuvuzela! What’s that? It’s gone too far? Nonsense! Keep going!”
It’s the same today. You couldn’t look in my closet and describe my sneakers as sensible (and if you did, I would ask you to leave. I don’t have room for closeted liars). They are senseless and fun and overstated, patterned from South American textiles or customized with nicknames and school colors. As tasteless and obvious as rainbow sprinkles.
But most of all, they fit. Sure, it helps that they are size eight-and-a-half, but that’s not what I mean. Not just physically. They fit. They actually fit.
Walk a mile in my shoes? Every damn day. That’s the whole point of living.