to listen to a pair of shoes

It had been a long relationship. It happened by accident. I never intended it to last as long as it did, nor did I think they would hold on as long as they did. They were oddly faithful, there through too many excursions and put to the test in places they never belonged.


I am a very picky shopper. And I'm an even pickier shoe shopper. Once I buy a pair, I expect to wear it until it dies. We're talking the sole flopping off, beads spilling in the floor, clasp broken, heal knob worn to the spike. I am hard on shoes and I expect many, many miles out of them. I don't buy them unless I feel like I can wear them for three or more years, and they'll match with absolutely everything in my closet. I know that I am hard to please. I have high standards.

I vividly remember buying them. I went into a skater sunglass shop and at the back of the store there was a rack of flip flops and sandals. They were on sale, $20 with a cheap orange tag, and they were a size too big. But they spoke to me so quickly that instead of my normal prolonged deliberation, I just said "yes" and bought them.

At first I didn't wear them much and regretted them, but couldn't take them back because they were a sale item. I would walk by them and wonder when I would ever wear them. It was raining one day and I seemed to remember that leather shrinks when it dries. So I wore them out in the rain hoping they would fit a bit better, this began the relationship. In the rain storm they felt like the perfect pair of boyfriend sandals, the sandals you steal from your man that are too big but somehow still fit and feel so comfortably worn in.

There was a strap across the toe, and then the bright cerulean blue leather came from the ball of the foot, crossed over the top with a big X to wrap around and close on the outside ankle with a small gold buckle. And I never had to do up the buckle because they were a size too big. I could slide them on like flip flops but they stayed on my foot unlike the shin-splint causing flip flops. And because they were leather and a bit stiff the back strap always caught on the back of my heel so they never flopped around on my foot.

They became my active sandals. They weighed about an ounce, they packed flat, and they went on every warm vacation with me. I hiked along the side of a mountain in them. We were worried about bears and had to make a lot of noise, so we were perpetually talking on the hike. I went quadding through deep mud in them, it got stuck in a thick pile of gumbo and I had to pick the shoe out of the mud. I slid it back on my foot and it said, "cool, let's do it again". They sat through near scorchings at too many friends' bon fires. They helped me dance the night away at a few weddings.  They had cow manure on them, soaked in mud puddles, sadly dog pee also, paint (that easily washed off) - they were bullet proof. I could run and swim in them. They took me to places that a flimsy sandal should never have taken me.

This summer we went out west to the mountains to swim and Stand Up Paddle-board on some beautiful lakes. After our first SUP I was walking toward a restaurant and they felt loose, not in the comfy-boyfriend-way, in a sad worn-out way. I heard them tell me that this would be there last trip. The back strap kept falling down around my heel, the elastic beside the buckle had finally given out. They were telling me they were tired. I shushed them. I disregarded their age and ignored the warning.

We were out swimming the next day. We were at the dog beach so it was very rocky and I had to keep them on while swimming. And then I felt it. The toe strap came lose on the right shoe. It was irreparable, and really not worth it since these $20 sandals had lasted me over ten years. I hate that I am old enough to say that I had faithful shoes for ten+ years.

I didn't have another pair with me. I had brought the faithful blue shoes and didn't think I would need a back up. I went into another store and bought a pair of cheap flip flops, I was sad that I didn't find a pair of strappy cerulean blue multipurpose sandals. I grabbed the new pair, without giving it a moment's thought, I gave the blue sandals to the cashier and said, you can throw these out.

I walked out of the store. I got into the car and thought, I should have taken a picture of them. I should have properly discarded them, I should have taken a moment to say thank you to these inexpensive shoes that carried me to so many places and worked for every occasion. The new shoes don't hold a candle to them. I'm sorry I threw them out like garbage.

My friend told me that if you're thinking about it the next day that you have to go back and resolve it. The problem is, I can't go back to that store and pilfer through the garbage to find them. Instead I write this post, an homage to the shoes. Goodbye to my beloved shoes. I am so glad I listened to you that day and bought you. I know I will spend a few shopping trips looking to replace you, but I don't know if I ever will. I miss you dearly already.

When people ask you why you have such a thing for shoes, you can reference this story. Buy those shoes that speak to you, not the ones that say they're going to hurt you, not the ones that lie to you, or make you a liar, buy the shoes that are whole-heartedly you. They will serve you well.

That's all.


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