Red Shoes

I do not dance. I have sensitive feet and a flat-shoe life: I’ve worn high heels maybe three times a year over the last eight. I do not own a flirty red dress or a sparkly red shirt, or, God forbid, any sort of red pants. In my beige vinyl makeup bag, nestled among drying out black mascara and pale plum lip gloss, I do have a tube of crimson lipstick. This was a gift from my younger sister, who wears red lipstick to the grocery store just because she feels like it.

These red shoes, though, I love. They catch my eye when I’m hunting for something else in my closet and make me smile. I sigh also, but first, I smile. I bought these shoes in a dusty thrift store in Davenport, Iowa, in 2015, when I was fresh out of rehab, and rooting around other people’s castoffs for hours a few times a week was my cheap replacement obsession. I needed decent, sturdy clothing for my new job at a homeless shelter’s front desk, but I also needed something to dream on. I would wear them to dinner at Daniel if I ever made it back to New York City. I would wear them to a cocktail party—while holding a flute filled with sparkling water, of course—if I ever again became acquainted with people who threw cocktail parties. I would wear them on a first date to the movies if the right person were escorting me.

It wouldn’t matter if my feet hurt in these shoes because I would be going somewhere or with someone far more interesting than achy feet. Because these shoes are fly, I would not care if they were a bit too much for the occasion or way too much, obviously, for the real me. Never mind that they are, in truth, a maroon-y, burgundy shade. To me, they are top of the rainbow red, Dorothy clicking her heels red, you gotta check out her red—they are the most, the brightest.

I tried not to dwell on why someone banished them to the realm of scratched LPs and chipped coffee mugs and musty winter coats. But to me, the best-case scenario was this: with chasing a toddler and tending a baby and cleaning up after a dog plus all the busyness at her office job, the former owner opted for chic but sensible low black pumps when she and her spouse finally got a night to themselves. She adored the red shoes—they’d had some fun—but into the giveaway bag they went. Her family needed every inch of space.

For just seven dollars, I carried home both my wildest fantasies and fond memories of another woman’s existence. I have yet to find the right occasion for stepping out in my fancy red heels. But I am still sober, and they still are with me. I know, someday, our night will come.

– Anonymous