Where the Red Shoe Walks

December 5, 2011
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You walk toward me, your feet sounding like knives one by one dropping on the ground. You do this on purpose, your every action and breath planned out to deliberately hurt me. I don’t know why you do this; don’t know why my existence makes you want to hate and hurt, but it does. As you sit down across from me, I can’t help but notice how much smaller I am compared to you, how trashy I seem in comparison, how white your skin is compared to the brownness of mine. I nervously lace and unlace my fingers together over my apron, then decide its best to lay them straight. Your crystal blue eyes scan over my browning straw shoes, then to the tattered brown hem of my wool dress, up to my dirty neck, and finally to my face. On my eyes, black like soot. I try my very best to look gracious but not too comfortable, cautious but not cowardly, and on keeping my tone even and tamed. That is, if you ever start speaking to me. You purse your ruby red lips as you delicately pickup your porcelain tea cup, not once adverting your glance. My eyes are darting like a cat after a mouse. You notice this, I know you do, and I know that’s why your pursed lips transform into a smirk. Casually, you place your cup down and brush back one of your long yellow curls. These same curls are the ones you curse yourself in the mirror for, and then eventually direct your distaste for your naturally curled hair at me. All of a sudden you bark an order at Jeeves, who I can see polishing silver in the other room, to get you the items you asked for. I slightly tense at not only the sound of your voice at an octave too harsh to indicate my future being a happy one, but at the dreaded curiosity of what these items might be. I feel dizzy and I start seeing purple and blue dots dance feverishly blurring my vision. I blink to get rid of the dots, and when they clear, I see you holding a pair of shoes. These shoes are my favorite of your collection, being not only my favorite color but also beautiful in craft. The delicate silk strips that are attached to the shoes are meant to tie up the legs of a women with a long skinny frame-not meant for someone like you. Though pretty, you were born the “runt of the litter”. It was by luck that your litter happened to be the richest and most respected in all of South Alabama. Not only do the shoes have this feature which attracts me to them but this pair happened to be the same size as mine. Being the type of lady who must have something once they want it, you were willing to deal with the fact that they were two sizes two big for you. Of course I was the one who had to stuff your shoes with wool so that they could fit your petite feet and lace them before the banquets that you decided to wear them at. This was fine by me; it gave me more time to marvel at them. You now turn the right shoe to its side and I can see the reason you called me to your house on my one day off a week. The long black scuff pops out against the color of the shoes, but not as badly as the torn fabric around it. You turn the left shoe over now and I start to gasp but catch myself. The whole skinny, pointed heel of the shoe is hanging off by what it seems a thread. I feel a pang in my stomach. These beautiful shoes were something I could never afford; admiring them on your feet was good enough for me. I look at you with a sympathetic expression, hoping to show you how sorry I feel for you. “Ill patch these up real good for you, Mrs. Lovine.” I say as I reach for them “Ill try to make ‘em good as new.” Just as my fingers are an inch away from taking the shoes, you harshly smack my hand. I freeze, not stunned that you hit me but stunned at what the reason could be. “Don’t even act like you don’t know what happened to my beloved shoes !” you sneer. “I....uhm….Mrs.Lov-.” “Don’t Mrs. Lovine me, you shrew!! I now what you workers do to us white folk. We give you so much, give you the honor of working for us, and what do you all do?! You contaminate our personal belongings with your filth !!” I am petrified, beyond trying to stay calm; I feel my whole body shaking. The pleading words are caught in my throat, while the perplexity of this situation causes my head to start pounding. “HOW…COULD….YOU ! How could you wear MY shoes??!”
“It wasn’t me Mrs. Lovine I pro-pro-mise” I squeak trying to get it out before I become too timid to say anything. “YOU FILTHY LIAR!!” you scream as you throw the left shoe at me. It bounces off my chest, hitting my collar bone when it does, and lands on the floor. I pick it up quickly, trying to show my employer that I’m ready to repair the shoes like a good worker should. You kick it out of my hand, which hurts my finger but I’ve learned to get used to pain. “I know…that you wore…my shoes. I know…that you ruined….my favorite shoes!” you say between clenched teeth, with each word blowing out a hot spurt of air that hits my skin like boiling water. My stomach starts to turn over on itself and I feel lucky that I’m sitting down because if I was standing I know I would pass out rite on top of you. You throw the right shoe at my face. I have to let it hit me knowing that if I even put my arm up to block it you would fire me. Even though I feel tears spring to my eyes I somehow hold them back. Your breathing has calmed down to a more even, calm tone, back to the image you constantly present to your dinner guests and your sewing circles and your family members. You push the curls back off your face, knowing that if you look perfect, you are perfect. Eyes still locked on me, on my browning straw shoes, then to the tattered brown hem of my wool dress, up to my dirty neck, and finally to my face. On my eyes, black like soot. “Get the paddle Jeaves”. And that’s all I remember before I passed out.

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