Molly's Shoes

January 30, 2010
“I do believe you’ve been sitting there for over an hour Mr. Lee.”
I glanced up at Tommy, “You haven’t asked me to leave.”
Tommy chuckled, his dark red hair caught the reflection of a flame from the fireplace, “No but I should, you’re scaring away all my customers.” He ran his white rag over the knotted wooden counter.
I didn’t bother looking up, “You don’t ever have any customers Tommy.” I meant for it to sound light, but my tone was dry.
“That’s true I suppose, but seeing as you’re sitting here you could at least humor me and buy something.” His implication was clear but my mind was already gone.
I rested my elbows on my knees and stared down at my old hiking shoes. Once a deep brown, now faded to a dusty gray, the creases held sand from Egypt, water from the Mississippi, ice from Antarctica, dirt from Africa, and so much more. The hiking shoes were all I had left, the only thing in my life I had managed to keep, it’s a shame all I was able to hold on to was a stupid pair of shoes.
Molly had liked the shoes though, which I suppose is why I kept them with me, because if ever my intentions became unclear, if ever I forgot exactly why I was riding an elephant in Africa, why I was half frozen in Antarctica, why I was sitting at a deserted pub in Ireland, I’d look down at the shoes and slip back into my memory.
A cool April day, hinting at the first signs of summer if you were an optimist, which I was, the sun beating down on my back, the rays going through me and around me, warming my black hair in a way that touching it brought instant heat to your hands. I was walking, because that seemed to be my preferred way of transportation, especially when everything was within walking distance. Molly was saving up to get me a bike for my birthday in May, a mint green one with a banana seat. I wasn’t supposed to know, but I did, because I always knew Molly’s intentions. I thought it was because I could read her well, because I was her other half, and what she thought somehow was transferred to my mind, looking back I realize maybe she was hiding something so big from me that a banana seat bicycle wasn’t considered a secret.
I walked into a shoe store, I knew what I wanted, I knew it wouldn’t take long. I was in a hurry, Molly was making dinner and I had to be at her apartment in an hour. I walked to the back and picked up the shoes I had seen the week before. Two pair exactly alike, brown with orange laces, hiking shoes, a size nine for me and a size six for Molly, I rushed to the front of the store and paid for them in waded up bills.
The walk to Molly’s apartment was short, but it took forever to get there. I climbed three flights of stairs and knocked on her apartment door. She opened the door in an instant. I was surrounded by beauty in an instant.
“Molly, I got you something, well, us something.”
Molly smiled distantly, she hugged me briefly, “Wes, you didn’t have to,” she paused, “you really didn’t have to.”
I walked into her kitchen and sat at the table, I took the shoe boxes out of the brown paper bag and placed them carefully on the table.
“Surprise!” I said with enthusiasm.
Curiosity got the best of Molly, she walked over and opened the box nearest to her, “Shoes? Hiking shoes?”
I smiled earnestly, “Molly, what do you want to do in your life, more than anything?”
“Travel,” she said wistfully, “but, about that…”
I cut her off, “We are, we’re going to travel. My inheritance money from my uncle is enough, I figured it out. The whole world, we can see everything Molly.”
She picked up a shoe and examined it with delicate fingers, “No Wes, you can see everything.”
Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper, I didn’t think I heard anything at first.
“Molly, you don’t mean that.”
She nodded fiercely, tears threatening her eyes, “I do Wes, I really do. I got a call from the doctor last week, my check up, remember it Wes? I’m dying. I have three months to live.”
Everything crashed down, but as tears streamed off her face I did my best to stay positive, “Molly, we can still go, three months, that’s enough time.”
“No Wes, I’m not going, I” she paused, “I’m leaving, I called my mother, I’m going back home.”
I stared at her, “Then I’ll go with you.”
She laughed with no happiness left in her, “No you aren’t. I won’t let you watch me die. I can’t do that to you.”

Two days later she was gone.

I considered going after her, I really did, but to do what? To cause her more pain, to make her last days here more painful than they already were? Molly was doing what she thought was best, but her rational decision made me irrational.
After going to her empty apartment only one thing consumed my mind, traveling, if Molly couldn’t do it, then I’d do it for her. I’d go everywhere she wanted to go just to hold on to her for one more day. Molly had three months to live, so I did too. That was the only way it could be.
“Wes, something bothering you?”
Caught off guard I looked up at Tommy, “Not too much,” I lied, keeping my eyes glued to the wall.
He stared at me hard and then nodded and went to the back for something.
I slipped off the bar stool and walked out the door, the little bell sounded and I heard Tommy’s footsteps running to the front in hopes someone had walked in.
Three months to this day Molly had told me she would die. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t talked to her; I could feel her presence slipping away with every second. It wasn’t fair that she wasn’t here beside me, in Ireland, the place she had wanted to see more than anything else. I could have taken her; I could have shown her the world in three months.
I looked down at my shoes, I could see a hole wearing through where my big toe was. I was so stupid to think a pair of shoes could seal our fate, could bind Molly and me to the world. Nothing could keep us here. I sat at the top of the bridge, wooden and old, no one was around for miles except Tommy. I looked at the cement block I had taken off his makeshift stairway. I wondered if he’d notice it was gone, if he’d miss it, if he’d know what happened. I secured them to the shoes with the rope I’d bought. I didn’t think about anything, there wasn’t anything to think about, in the last minute Molly had faded faster than ever. If I hurried, I could go with her.

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