On a sunny Southern California day in January, the month we moved to Chicago, I took a trip to an outlet mall outside of the city. I was there to find coats, gloves, scarves and other winter weather gear. We were ill prepared for the freezing temps of Chicago and I had to stock up fast or face hypothermia and/or freeze our tuckuses off. Thanks to Eddie Bauer’s subzero line I was over-prepared for the snow in one stop and I even bought unnecessary hand warmers that one uses for skiing and car lock deicers that I never used. But since I was already there at the outlet mall, I thought I would do a little more shopping just to see what I could see. What I saw was a beautiful and delicate pair of black lace pumps at Cole Haan’s outlet store. I knew, at once, that they were highly impractical. I also knew that I didn’t have a life that required much in the way of evening shoes. However I fell in love and I was feeling that wonderful “we are moving out of L.A. ” dream come true feeling and everything felt like it was coming up roses and that soon all our wishes would come true. And since the shoes were on sale, I, without too much rationalization, bought them.
The Cole Haan black lace pumps went in a moving van across the country and they, unworn, found a home in my Lake Bluff closet. The entire time that we lived in Chicago an occasion never arose in which these lacy shoes were needed. They stayed in their box patiently waiting for the day when they would have their time in the sun( or the snow). The day never came.
Two years later we moved to Austin and once again the shoes were moved by big and brawny men who had no idea that within a plain brown box was a sleeping Cinderella waiting for its ball. The shoes moved into a large mirrored closet. They were put to the back of the closet with the Uggs, snow boots and other shoes that were unlikely to be used in Texas. Every now and then when a shoe would go missing, I would in an act of desperation go through all of my shoes boxes to see if that wayward sandal might have magically transmogrified into one of the back row boxes. When I opened the Cole Haan box I would be met with a paradoxical perfume of beauty, sadness, unlived life, unrealized dreams and a whiff of shoe-never-worn scent( kind of like new car scent, only not as powerful). This heady mix would always make me pause and throw me off the scent of the missing sandal. Slowly and gently I would wrap the shoes in their original tissue as if tucking a small child into bed. I would say a silent prayer as I closed the lid on the unworn shoes, the prayer was so silent that I don’t even now the words. I feel sure there were words of hope and prayers that maybe things would change and maybe we would have a happy ending and that maybe one day soon I would have that feeling I had when we were moving away from L.A.
When we moved back to Los Angeles the shoes came with me. This time they made the trip in a U-haul that He-weasel and his father drove back from Austin. They, unlike some other shoes that never made it back to L.A., arrived back to the state I bought them from—still unworn. And for the last two years these shoes have sat in my closet. They were perched on a ledge in my closet that is so high that I can’t reach them on my own. I keep things there that I never use, it is a perch for the once loved or sentimental objects that I cannot bring myself to abandon.
For the last several weeks I have been going through my closet. Because of all the weight I lost the majority of the items in my closet no longer fit me. So I have been playing a slow game of: trash, donate or alter. It is a game that I am not very good at. I tend to put all my eggs into the donate pile and a few into the trash and so far only two items have made it into the alter pile. It is, I can tell you, a bit disheartening to see so many items that I were sure were investment pieces not make the grade to take them to the tailor. They just, somehow, look kind of sad. I tell myself that as I play this game of wardrobe solitaire that I would be better off to let these pieces go and find new ones. I am not sure if that is the case, but it is what I have convinced myself of.
Yesterday I filled two large moving boxes with clothes that are off to the Goodwill. I try to remind myself that maybe my trash is someone else’s treasure and then I further comfort myself with the possibility of tax write offs. After going through skirts, dresses and trousers I didn’t have the heart or energy to take on tops, sweaters and jackets. You see, I have to try on each garment and stand in front of the mirror and ask myself what the hell I ever saw in this garment. It is aerobically and metaphysically exhausting. I did, I thought, have the energy to go through a few shoes. The red Ugg loafers that had been an obvious mistake from the first time I wore them, they would go. Also the Merrill suede athletic shoes that I bought in San Francisco when my blistered feet would take not one more step unless I surrendered to the hell of a comfort/walking shoes, it was time to say goodbye to them.
I looked up to the Cole Haan pumps and I climbed the tower to fetch Cinderella from her half-decade nap. I removed them from their box and put them on my feet. As I looked down I was aghast at the pointedness of the toe. The shoes, in their sleep, had become stiffer, harder and more brittle. My feet begged to be released from them. Neurons fired, synapses charged with electric impulses and my feet used its impressive power to communicate by telling me in no uncertain terms that we would never be wearing these shoes. Never, were its words. I knew that my feet and brain were right. And I was surprised that my heart wasn’t in them anymore. I didn’t love them, not at all. I did, however, feel a kind of sadness. I knew the shoes were going to the Goodwill.
The shoes are now in the trunk of my car, them and all the other unwanted items. And when I think about what it will feel like to drop that box and get my receipt and drive away from those shoes, I feel sad. I feel sad for all the dreams unfulfilled and that I am here and that we didn’t have children and that I feel all out of dreams, and that I am sort of okay with that( which may be the saddest part of all). For a second the image and the feelings are too much and I want to ask He-weasel drop them, however hat feels like bad faith. I feel like I have to do this. These are my shoes/ my dreams and that I have to say goodbye to them. I, in an attempt to rationalize my grief, tell myself that maybe some young girl going to prom would love what I could not. She would find these unworn diamonds among all the other stinky shoes and feel that she was terribly lucky to find such treasures. Maybe she wil take these shoes to the ball and she would have a happy ending.