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The Importance of Seats and Footwear
I sit and stare into the empty seat in front of me. I’m alone now. The chair and I, we aren’t so different, both cold and lifeless, both unable to be warmed by a gentle touch. Painted over to be more than we are. Dented from all those times we’ve been used, cheap. The leg of the chair is broken off. It wobbles back and forth, unsteadied, uneasy. I wonder if this chair had the same harsh beginnings, if it too was mishandled. Sent away from place to place because no one wanted it anymore. This chair and I we aren’t so different.
I fold it gently and begin to carry it away with me. As I reach to grasp its smooth, cold, gray surface I see on the back a mark, a label. Upon seeing the label, “Randall Community Center”, I shudder, feeling the cool shiver where I too had been hastily branded. My vision blurs till I see my hot tears splatter joining my footprints on the dusty ground as I begin to leave. One last time I turn around at the exit staring into the empty hall. Leaving behind my story and this hall’s secrets for the next unlucky witness.
I always tried to imagine the day I was born; I’ve watched enough movies to have the general idea. I suspect that as people do now, no one knew anything about me. The color scheme of the room would have pointed toward no specific gender; it was yellow. My father would have sat holding me in one of those squeaky plastic, polyester chairs, so sanitary you could eat off of one. Around him nurses would have been bustling about in their “sensible shoes”, the ones that clunk around on the floors, built for comfort and stability. I always imagine this day was a happy one, one worth remembering, I sure don’t.
I can still see flashes of an old living room. The walls are a deep maroon, trimmed in white with gold picture frames neatly placed above the mantle. In the middle of the room in front of the fireplace was a big green armchair, the kind that wraps you up and holds you tight in its warm and woolly upholstery. That was my father’s chair. He used to sit and stare into the flames, telling stories about them as if he knew the fire intimately. He always wore the same shoes, brown leather loafers with symmetrical dotting divots and neatly hung tassels.
I remember scrambling onto a kitchen chair just to watch my mother with her thin, gentle fingers move about, always something to do, something to make. The chair was high off the ground with a view of what seemed the whole world when one is so small. The cushion itself had witnessed so many culinary feats; the smell of every dinner was infused deep into the folds of its fabric. My mother would click about in her fancy black and white heels as she hummed something about washing a man out of her hair.
The seat I remember most was in the back of a big white SUV. It held me in tight with straps all over my body, clips and buckles that grabbed at every fiber of my clothes. It too was yellow with small green pinstripes on the deceivingly soft cover. The plastic it was made of was unyielding, its slippery surface tormenting my small body. From that seat I felt a jolt and watched the world outside the window spin round and round. Once my view settled from a speeding blur of color all I could see was the tips of my white shoes dotted with a deep red. Drip, drip, drip. Looking above I saw the top of my stupid plastic car seat bearing the weight of the roof, glass sprinkled into those mocking green pinstripes. I heard crunching, voices, screams, and felt rough hands wrestle with all those buckles and clips to release the tangle of straps holding me in. Finally free from their fatal embrace, light burst into my view. I tried to shelter my eyes with my small, useless hands. Between my muddled fingers I saw big black boots framed by reflecting yellow stripes, they were thick, tough, and abrasive. The hands placed me on icy metal with shapes that impressed into the back of my thighs. I was poked and prodded, cleaned and patched. Salty water poured out of the cracks in my eyes running over my lips, searing into the cut across my chin, and swirling into the sticky bright red on my shoes.
A woman with hair that extended to her hips, which was met with loose jeans that held no claim to her bony body, approached me. She wore rubber sandals, the kind with a beach painted across the bottom smeared by too many uses. They exposed her ungodly feet. Her toes spread wide apart as if running from each other. Each was spindly and cracked, some with cracks so deep it exposed her raw flesh, and topped with yellowing misshapen nails split on the edges. Horrified and confused, my ability to speak was lost as I choked on the only word I could produce, “My m…” The woman picked me up hurriedly and said, “You’re too young, dear, too young to know.”
From there it was like the world was spinning again. After a while I began to feel sick, the kind that comes from deep down in your stomach when you swivel one too many times on a desk chair, but I couldn’t stop it. I reached out and there was nothing for me to grab, nothing stable to slow me down. I reached into the nothing, the blur, and began to fall forward, face first into the unknown. No one ever told me what exactly happened that day, not important enough to make the local news stations pressing reports. My life got flipped, turned upside down. I never found out what happened to my lazy loafer of a father or my clicking clatter of a mother.
I was moved from place to place, sometimes there wasn’t even a bed for me to sleep in, too many misfits like me in one crowded house. My first night I was stuck in a black beanbag chair, it swallowed me whole, suffocated me. I drowned in the dark abyss finding no comfort in the thin solitary sheet that covered my pale and reddened skin. That night taught me to be afraid of cushions and stuffing, it was better to trust the bitter, hardwood floor because no matter where you are, it’s always the same. It doesn’t provide false comfort and smother you, it is just plain, flat, and rigid.
I was an outsider and an innocent, pushed around by people who believed they had more to offer the world than I did. They may have been right. I knew little of the world outside of my own experience and detested it for what I had seen. One night as I roamed the streets of the sketchy neighborhood near one of my many temporary homes, I was grabbed. The same kind of rough, wrestling grab from my car seat, but this time it wasn’t to save me. The hands groped and gnawed into my skin as I tried to resist. In angry attempts to hold me down, I felt a searing, burning pain on my lower back in the shape of a small circle, my face pushed against grimy, chip filled sheep skin. It was then I realized I was in a smoke filled car and stuck at the mercy of those rough hands. I saw the worn-down tennis shoes catching the falling remains of a burning, unfiltered Camel. I looked up to see the streetlight above turn red and I took my chance, busting open the door of the car and running without looking back. I sprinted as fast as I could, a ripping feeling tearing through my weak muscles. I could hear the jeers and angry pacing behind me. I ducked into the first building I found. It was dark; I searched for any open door. I turned the rusting knob of a closet door and slipped inside. The mops strewn across the ground snapping at my bare ankles like snakes, the soles of my shoes sticking to the damp floor. I hid between the brooms and the dustpans, precariously placed atop an upturned bucket as unforgiving as my long lost car seat. My pale white skin blended with the hand towels towering next to me. I heard those worn down tennis shoes screeching on a clean floor. I could feel my heart beating in my cheeks as my hand trembled violently on my knees. He searched for a while trying to find me, but I had become a master of being invisible. I stayed in that closet all night, too afraid to venture out. After the few minutes of sleep I gathered I was awoken by the bustle of my sanctuary, the community center of Randall City.
This was the first time I had been back since. I never went back to that house I was placed in, I decided I could make it on my own. I was done letting other people decide what I could and couldn’t know or do. I’ve lived on the streets, in backyards, and on a rare person’s dime. Currently, I’ve checked myself into a hospital just to see those “sensible shoes” walking all over the place. They’re comforting.
I got a letter yesterday delivered to my bed by the nurse with the purple shoes with big gapping holes in the top and a blue strap holding her small, socked feet in. At first I thought she got it wrong, no one knew who or where I was. I opened the square letter that contained a post-it note with the words “Train Station on 3rd, 5 p.m. Friday” attached to a newspaper clipping. The article was small, it was clipped off in the middle after the words, “The terrible car crash of Mr. and Mrs. Montoya resulted in…”
That’s why I’m here, this community center has been closed down for quite some time but I came back to the one place I feel safe. I’m taking the chair with me, it’s the only thing I’ve felt a connection with and I can’t stand to be this alone anymore. I awkwardly fumble the chair all the way to the train station and sit down feeling that unsteady sensation as I wobble on three legs. Our brands face blankly behind us, carrying more of a story than either of us cares to share. I felt a sickening weight in my stomach and the hairs stood up on the intrusive bumps littering my arm. A hand rested gently on my shoulder and I look down to see brown leather loafers with symmetrical dotting divots and neatly hung tassels.