I’m the youngest one in the room, but we all want to learn how to write. Some of us are journalists, some of us have stories to tell, some of us speak English as a second language. I might be the only one published, except for our instructor. Henk, an affable man in his thirties (second youngest next to me), hails from South Africa and is rarely without a smile, even when he’s sick or huddled in his jacket or having one of those days. The first day of class, he asks each of us to place one of our shoes on the table. We can’t help it. We all look from person to shoe, shoe to person, and make judgments, some punctuated by a certain smile on our faces. Then, as you might guess, he asks us to describe them in painstaking detail. “Focus on the senses. Do you all know what the senses are?” He doesn’t really wait for us to finish muttering them aloud before he says, “Right, right, right.” Then, “Write, write, write.”
The shoes I wear today I discovered on a wedding message board. A bride had worn them to her beach wedding in the name of comfort. When I bought them, I was planning my wedding but that’s not why I bought the shoes. I had been looking for beige flats for years but had never found the perfect pair. I had mostly come across ones that were dull, uncomfortable, too yellow. These were almost gold. I thought of my client, Anna, who describes her “professional” style as “beige on beige,” which isn’t her true sense of fashion. That’s what I didn’t want. These shoes are wrapped in a veil, and the sense I get when I slip them on to my foot with my hand is “princess”–that soft, tender feel of material meeting skin. The insole shines and shimmers. The toe and heel have been reinforced with suede and leather, so that the transparency looks a little more modest, just where you’d want it to. These shoes beg to be shuffled in, which is the way I normally walk. Maybe that’s the Chinese side of me. And so, the shoe fits. But when I slip from my shuffle and inadvertently walk toe to heel, bending my arch rather than sliding it along the floor, the heel clicks on the hard floor as if it’s telling the ground a secret. But I wonder if the rest of the sole makes contact at all. I can’t hear it speak. The veil whispers to the air as the shoes move through it–it would flutter if it were anywhere else but on my feet.
I don’t know the taste of what I wear on my soles, but Oliver surely does, my ten-month-old son who loves to pick up my shoes and put them in his mouth. He loves these and my flowered Mary Janes the best–together they are my most expensive casual shoes. I’d say he has good taste.
They don’t smell, not like leather, not like suede, not like dirt. Perhaps that IS their smell–the lack of one–and it seems appropriate for how delicate they are. Which makes them appear all the more feminine, and then so do I.