Wooden Sole

Image of Short Story
Her shoes glare at me as I wait on the couch for him to pour the wine. Though she is absent her shoes fill the room with her presence. Jay and Marina’s apartment is quiet, and lushly decorated with her vintage Parisian aesthetic despite the disarray of half packed boxes, stacks of books, and piles of clothes loitering in the hall. It has never occured to me before this time that it is strange for me to be here. That in some way my presence in their home, invading their private place of married life, is more intrusive than anything I ever did physically with Jay. Somehow, in all the late nights I’ve spent here when she was out of town, I’ve missed the clearest fact: I wasn’t just sleeping with her husband, I have been trying to steal her life. Her shoes judge me from atop a stack of cashmere sweaters. The stitches inching up the white leather backstay glower down upon me, and I am well within their jurisdiction; at their mercy.
I glance down at my overworn boots. The toe of one is starting to bust open, the same one whose sole has been worn thin on the outer left side. Unlike hers, which are made of real leather, mine have succumbed to the wear of city blocks. I should have left them at the door; a thin line of drying snow and salt marks my path from door to couch, tainting Marina’s spotless hardwood floors.
How long must it take to pour two glasses of wine? Their galley kitchen is obscured from view by the numerous boxes stacked by the door that leads to the master bedroom, their bedroom, well, his now.
I move to the window, looking out across a darkened street where a brightly illuminated storefront is shadowed by a couple intertwined against the glass. Whether drunk on each other or something else entirely I wasn’t quite sure, but even as they pulled themselves from their embrace it wasn’t their eyes I felt staring at me.
Her shoes are still inspecting me. They’re fixated on me. I don’t turn from the window but my eyes stretch the length of their stems to peer over the corner of my cheekbones back at them. They are white, with a thick wooden sole. The soles are clog-like, where the arch and shank do not form to the shape of the leather insole, but rather create a platform with only a small cut out for an arch. A wooden pillory just big enough to encircle a throat.
From the side the slender length of her well kempt heels taunts me. It’s delicate straps whispering of narrow ankles, less nobbly than mine, that never seem to bruise or blister despite being noosed by these straps during long readings and signings. She would remain poised, even after such events, even on the night when the eery clicking of wooden heels coming down an apartment hall did not wake us. Her necessary, but futile warning toll.
Her shoes are well worn, but well preserved. Perhaps she buffs the smooth white leather once a week to keep them clean, or perhaps he used to, and since my intrusion they are developing stains. Or then again she may never have worn them, the straps are too tight, and rub on her thin knobby ankles. Only she wore them that night. So, then perhaps she wore them the night they met she took them off as he walked her home from the party. Perched in vignette against the backdrop of store windows she might’ve hooked one finger under the silver buckle and propped herself against his shoulder to keep delicate ankles steady on the slick pavement. He would be drunk from PBR and she a little bit too, although not from PBR, but it would be there that he’d first kiss her; ignoring the clunk of her wooden heel hitting cement.
The clatter of his shoes hitting the wooden flooring in their -now his- apartment pulls me away from the couple who has continued blindly devouring one another on the street below. He slithers up behind me in pine green socks and his thick arms encircle my waist, pressing a pint glass, partially filled with red wine to my lips,
“It didn’t seem right to dirty Marina’s wine glasses.”
And what of the myriad of invisible stains we’ve left in her bed?
“I’m sorry about all of this,” he murmurs, nuzzling his dark beard and lips into my hair, “I would’ve cleaned more, but I don’t like being here when Marina is here packing. I’m sorry she left us such a mess.”
I suppose I can forgive her. After all, look what a mess I made of her life?
I swallow the guilt creeping up the back of my throat, and twist around to face him. Her shoes peer at me from over his shoulder. Stable amidst a world of disarray her shoes’ unscuffed leather and unscathed soles beg to be worn in. She hasn’t decided whether to take them, or not. They were her last reminder of him, when they slept in the same bed, and clawed at one another restlessly in the night; when the words flowed musically, and publishers were accepting both their work- and the only thing to get in the way of his work was her spindly hands sneaking up the back of his shirt while he typed.
And look how you’ve ruined that.
It is odd now, with these shoes staring back at me, that we did not hear them. Their wooden soles must be three inches thick and sturdy enough to provide two tangled lovers a warning cry. Perhaps we ignored the sound of wooden heels echoing down a poorly lit hall; each click a warning shot grazing over our heads. No, the clacking tempo did not register in our addled minds even once it was just outside the apartment door. The shoes had given us enough warning. But there in their bed, our minds half drugged by the wine of lust, we weren’t listening for the sound of shoes his wife rarely wore.
Finally I turn from the shoes, ripping my gaze from their soles to find his eyes staring back at me. “Do you write about me?” I ask.
He doesn’t reply, burying his lips in my collar bone. So I ask again, and this time he nods, only pausing his affair with my neck to hum in my ear, “And you of me?”
I extract myself from his arms and move towards the pile of boxes stacked in front of their, no, his room.
“Only in relation to her.”
I take the white shoes off of their perch atop her boxes.
“I bought Marina those from that vintage store down on fifth. I bought them for her the day after we met.”
Hooking the back strap of the white shoes around my finger I slide my foot into one as I steady myself on the boxes. The other shoe falls from the boxes, clanging against the floor like the strike of a gavel. Retrieving the lost mate from the ground I try to stuff my foot into her shoes.