Monday, May 5, 2014

The shoes are our friends.

Gothic shoes, oil on card, 14 x 12.2 cm




Shoes, of all the things we wear, are our dearest friends, protecting us and making our lives possible, accompanying us of every journey, uncomplaining, diligent, dependable.

Perhaps it is because this deep loyalty of service is expressed with so few complaints that we tend to take our shoes for granted, casting them aside at the close of day almost contemptuously, dirty socks stuffed inside them. And giving the polishes and repairs that they require only when it is utterly essential, or have caught the contemptuous expression of a junior colleague at the office at the sight of their forlorn, un-nourished faces. You rarely consider their well-being until the moment when, walking across a rain puddled pavement with feet damp because the soles have worn through, you say to yourself resignedly, I had better take these to the Paraguayan cobbler later this week. How tedious!

I have long been aware of the wrongness of such indifference, and have been repaid not just with loyalty but loving concern. 

Recently,  I happened to be in a small town in northern Uruguay, night falling, the air cool: a perfect time for an evening stroll. There were some people still around, closing shops and finding their ways home. And out we went, my shoes and I, and I wandered somewhat aimlessly about a square, then down a cobbled old street where a charming old church beckoned. The lighting grew dimmer and dimmer as I proceeded and, peculiarly, my shoes began pinching terribly. I resolved to return to the hotel immediately to relieve my feet.

"Have you been for a walk?", the plump receptionist enquired  pleasantly.  I told him where I had been, and he replied, "you should be most careful round there, Señor, there have been many robberies". Indeed there was such a robbery later that night, only fifty metres from where I`d stopped. An old lady had been relieved of her handbag and pearls, and tater had a series of heart-attacks.

There is no doubt in my mind that it was a premonition on the part of my shoes that caused them to warn me.

Similarly, a few months ago, I decided to drive to the south of this island, where the coconut trees sway continually in a sort of meditation. I dressed, then reached for my shoe, my foot expecting fully its cool embrace. But it was resistant, as if it reduced itself by several sizes. I tried with the other shoe, but it was the same, I could scarcely squeeze my foot past the opening, and had to abandon my trip. Later I discovered that two tourists had been killed three by falling coconuts, their thick American skulls  reduced to bloody fragments on the grass around their moutainously obese forms.

The scientific minded among you will, quite understandably, question my conclusions. They will mention, I`m sure, such factors, as coincidence, the possible swelling of my feet, or have some complicated ideas about auto-suggestion, or cleverly say, with enormous self-satisfaction, "ah but this is not enough to establish a pattern!" They might even suggest that I have been visited by hallucinations.

But I suspect that these very same, sober souls are just the sort of  people who casually fling their shoes under their beds at the end of the day without giving even so little as a "thank you", or a "goodnight".



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