</small>Nike, Airwalks, Sketchers Sneakers. "Leather" dress shoes. K-Mart Kickers. Flip-flops. Sizes 1 to 12. Wide, narrow. From the mall, the marts, thrift stores, Goodwill. I guess it's like what Forrest Gump once said, "I've worn lots of shoes." Well, now that I think about it, I haven't worn as many shoes as most others have. Am I jealous of them? Yes, of course I am. How could I not be?
I was five, yeah that's right, Kindergarten. First day of school. Was I happy? No. I was wearing my flashy blinking shoes. The ones that when you take a step, these little red lights blinked. They were so cool back then. I loved them. The little scarlet flickers made me a pretty happy kid, normally. I was up way too early that day. I really didn't like the situation. Imagine: You are like |this| tall, awake 3 or 4 hours earlier than you usually like to, well, during the week anyways. The weekend was different. Cartoons, of course. What I would have given to be sitting on the couch watching that silly coyote, instead I was on the street corner, having pictures taken of me. They told me to smile. I told them to let me go back inside. So, the compromise was: I don't smile, they take pictures, I get herded onto the bus. Real fair. I've never liked having my picture taken since, nor do I smile needlessly.
Basically, this continued for all of my pre-college life. Most of the smiles I gave were false. From day to day, I didn't have much to be happy about. Working, arguing, learning, teaching, slacking. But yes, occasionally that true smile would come out, but people didn't really know when it happened. My shoes were made from fake leather, exported from France, good price too. Most of the time when I smiled, people either knew I was faking, or was trying to get something out of them. Smiles were just bribes, in a way. Manipulation.
I remember in elementary school when I first tied my shoes for myself. I was at some assembly at a different elementary school. It was a show they had put on for their parents. I didn't see the point in them then, I don't now. I guess it's to show the parents that there is a school that goes along with the entourage of yellow buses. If it were up to me, I'd rather not see my tax dollars invested in forty kids dressed in expensive costumes, walking "like Egyptians" to horrible music. That's just me. Anyway, I was sitting in the chair at a table watching one boring skit after another, but I decided my time would better be invested in sitting under the table, pretending I was somewhere else. Anywhere: under the ocean, on the moon, in a big crowded city loaded with obnoxious pedestrians and tourists.
I sat under that table, thinking about everything I wanted to do in my life, not much came to me. All the meanwhile, I had been fiddling with my first laced shoes. You can't imagine how angry I was when my mom had bought me these instead of the Velcro, even thinking about it now makes me want to smash some plates, throw a TV off a bridge, or ninja kick a punching bag. I was trying to figure out a way to destroy or rip up the shoe laces. No success. In doing so, I accidentally tied them up as I had seen so many do before. I was a self-taught lacer, no one had every shown me how simple it was. All they did was do it for me. I guess they believed giving someone a fish was more beneficial, having an advantage over someone. Given, tying shoelaces wasn't much of an advantage, but it still was one. After the show, I showed everyone my shoes, proclaiming my happiness. I smiled.
Until today, I wore two-hundred dollar sneakers that I got from the mall. But, today I changed. I was walking along the crowded sidewalk this morning, as usual. Everyone so busy, doing some random work, just to be able to go to a nice home tonight. And, also as usual, I was stopped by a homeless person, kindly calling for me, but this one was different. He did not ask me for money. He did not ask me for a place to work. He asked for my shoes. That's all. This threw me off. Why my shoes? Why not some spare change? Why not a lunch? I asked him why. Simply he replied, "I don't have shoes. The bottoms of my feet are cut up. I just want to walk around, without having to look for glass shards. I want to walk; to walk in your shoes." He was willing to show me his feet, but I respectfully declined and gave him what he wanted. The joy on his face, his quiet thank you, it was worth well over two-hundred dollars. Then I realized that a pair of five dollar shoes from Goodwill would have made him just as happy, because all he wanted was to walk, to walk a mile in my shoes. It all made so much sense; I understood now. I walked that mile home, collecting on my barefeet: 3 tacks, 2 safety pins, and 6 peices of glass. I couldn't have felt better.</small>