A story about shoes. Little shoes and big.
|I should start with a disclaimer and say that I'm a writer and I love my characters. In fact, I love my characters so much that sometimes I even write stories about them.
In workshops and How-To books, writers with more writing experience than I have often say that if a writer wants to understand her characters, she should try walking in their shoes for a while. I find this exercise to be the most difficult of all for a simple reason. My characters and I don't wear the same shoe sizes. And sometimes, not always, but on certain occasions, I might not even like what shoes my dear characters wear.
The topic of shoes and shoe sizes, even it might not seem so, it's important. It's so important in fact, for a writer, that I think it deserves a study of its own.
Let's start with someone that could easily be a character in one of my stories, and let's call her Mindy. Mindy's age is not essential, as we're reminded over and over, nor her social status. But the day Mindy would invite me to her home, I'm sure that my jaw would drop at the sight of how many pairs of shoes she owns.
If Mindy is married, there might be a section in her shoe room, where, lonely and awkward, two or three pairs of shoes, usually of a darker shade, sit somewhere in the corner. They are of size ten and a half or eleven, and sometimes even bigger.
This is where, as a writer, I stop for a while and look at what I see. A few questions pop up immediately. I ask myself why this person, let's call him Bob, has only three pairs of shoes when obviously he can afford more. This might not seem an important detail at first, but believe me when I say that it is. Seeing that Bob has only three pairs of shoes might make one think that Bob is a very calculated person. Perhaps Bob works with numbers, and he's an accountant or a banker, but that's not important. What's important is that Bob believes in a certain life of moderation, which by all means is admirable. Mindy knows this, and she appreciates Bob's way of thinking, and I, as a writer, also like Bob. Sometimes I even believe that I could be as calculated as he is, but I feel bored as there is no story here, nothing for me to write about. Until one day, when Mindy comes home and finds that Bob has bought a new pair of shoes. If we want to make things more interesting, let's also add that this new pair of shoes is not of a darker tone, but of a color that reminds Mindy of hot Summer days, of laying in the sand and being roasted on one side, then the other, of stolen kisses behind a tree and believing that nobody saw that, of ice cream of different colors and flavors, of staying up all night and just talk, and many, many other things. And this is the point when Mindy starts worrying, and I start writing. Because now two questions pop up right away in Mindy's mind as well as in my own. The first one is, "why did Bob feel the need to buy a new pair of shoes." The second question, and the most important one, is "where is he now," because invariably, when Mindy finds out about Bob's new interests, "hobbies," how he calls them, he's not around.
Let's give Bob and Mindy some space for a while and wait to see if they can solve their problems. Meanwhile, let's take a better look at what Mindy's shoe room really contains.
We see her shoes on one side, then we see his, but there is something more. There is a part in that room, a part that belongs neither to Mindy nor Bob, a part that when Mindy and Bob were young was small, smaller than Bob's, but now has grown so big that in a few years it might even take over the entire shoe room. In the beginning, that section contained very small shoes, so small that they didn't even know how to walk just yet. Later, as the shoe sizes grew, so did the wear of their soles. Now that section contains tiny shoes, pink and blue sneakers, winter boots in the colors of a rainbow, and worn-out soccer shoes-because she saw Brandi Chastain one day ripping off her jersey and winning the World Cup, and she decided at that moment that when she grows up, she wants to play for the national soccer team, as Brandi did. And if the writer in me wants to complicate things even further, I'll add one of those pair of shoes worn at prom nights. That would add some dynamite to the mix, wouldn't it?
Mindy could get over Bob's new pair of shoes, and even though it hurts at first, it hurts so much in fact that her life seems shattered to piece, without meaning, she feels that this is not the end, that somehow all she has to do is to stay strong and everything will be fine. Instead, Mindy worries for the little shoes, the one that can't walk yet, the one that can't properly spell "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", or the one that after her prom night next week will step into her adult life without someone to tell her how the real world is, without someone to be there when she is not chosen to play for the national team, or just to hug her and tell her that everything would be alright even though she feels the world ended because her boss yelled at her. The little shoes need the big shoes in their life, and Mindy knows this, and this is where the story begins.
That's all I have to say about the subject of shoes, Mindy shoes or mine. The distinction is blurry, as so many great writers remind me repeatedly, but nevertheless, this story is not mine anymore. It's Mindy's story to tell now.