Today I threw away an old pair of shoes. They were excellent shoes, probably only the second pair of excellent shoes I’ve ever owned in my life. Red Wings, custom fitted, black leather oxford design, slip-proof with reinforced toes.
I got them for restaurant work, back in 2010, 2011 maybe. I was working at Local Chain Pizza, slanging high quality and high priced recreational food to suburbanites who ranged from rich to wealthy. Slip-proofing is a must; mop floors, clean spills, avoid the doom of your head hitting the tile floor. Reinforced toes are a must; drop jugs, pint glasses, boxes full of heavy frozen things, keep your toes. Custom fitted is a must; flat feet, wide feet, joints deteriorating from genetic disease, pain while standing and walking for extended periods of time.
The active life of those shoes saw nine lovers, four jobs, one major move, one weekly FM radio show, three U.S. states, eight roommates, and one fall from a cliff.
They were dusty, their life spent long before I finally let them go. The catalyst was a new pair of black boots I got cheap at Big 5 so I could respectably meet the dress requirements of my part-time job in the concert venue field. One of the last illusions I was holding onto that told me to keep the worn out Red Wings was the idea that I might Need To Have Nice Black Shoes For Something. The reality is, they were long past nice. They were scuffed up, the laces frayed, the heals worn. There were gashes in the sides from the rocks I landed on in the cliff incident. The right shoe was split along the front where the ball of my foot would flex—last winter when there was hella rain, I went out wearing them and ended up with wet socks and feet.
Once I got the boots, that illusion faded; I just didn’t need the Red Wings. I could let them go, aftermarket insoles and all. You served me well—now into the trash!
And with them, the energy of past lives they carried. Not the memories, never the memories. The experiences I keep forever and visit whenever I want, for better or worse. The women I kissed for the first time while I was wearing them. The anger in my steps—embedded in the shoes—from every time a rich brat co-worker couldn’t manage to do their share of the work or even think for themselves. Midnight liaisons with the Mad Russian. Nights smoking and drinking, movies and Resident Evil 6 with Brother Precious. The weight of every wonderful and every poisonous interaction I ever had in 18 months of street canvassing. The battle of overthrowing a demon king ex-boss. The woman I loved, who loved only herself. The guy I choked on a balcony.
In 2008 when I wrote my first novel, I used a soundtrack. One album that I would play on repeat every night when I sat down to write. That album is Shango by Juno Reactor, which I first got from Victor Vortex. I’m listening to it right now; Masters of the Universe is playing. I’ve heard the song played live one time, when I went to one of their shows. I was wearing the hat I’m wearing right now as I write; I was dancing with a gorgeous young armenian woman, our hands wandering freely over each others’ bodies. After the show, I’m with her in the back seat of her friend’s car. The friend and the friend’s date are sitting in the front seat talking. The woman and I are making out. Later, I walk her to her car, we continue to kiss, I say something to her, words long forgotten. She melts into me—oh my god, your voice…
I never see her again.