It’s Not Me, It’s Shoes


“You know…” She said, in the way she would often begin a conversation. My eyes never left my phone’s screen, but I did grunt an acknowledgement.

“I’ve given it a good try, a fair one. But – It’s not working for me and it’s not going to.” I looked up then. I wasn’t really listening, as usual.

“What’s not working?” I said.

“Wearing those shoes all day, for a few days. You know, those expensive cross-trainers I got a while back?”  

“Oh?” I said, not committing to conversation.

“Yeah,” she said. “It’s not just one thing, it’s several. Somewhere in the arch, they feel… too narrow, somehow? Like they’re too constricting. They pinch a little. I thought maybe they’d have some give and get more comfortable, but that part of the shoe just isn’t flexible, not at all.”

Sounded like she was doing fine carrying the conversation on her own, so I didn’t contribute anything.

“At the same time,” she continued, “And I know this sounds weird, but they feel too big, somehow? When I walk, they rub just a bit near the toes, and by the end of the day, it hurts. I think I might be getting a blister even!”

“I love those shoes, but I’ve tried, I really have, and there’s been no improvement. I can’t be in pain all the time, you know?” I knew. I grunted. “So, it dawned on me, I can’t make my feet conform to the shoes, you know?”

“Right,” I said. It was odd to me, her studying things so analytically. That was usually my role.  

“I’m taking them back,” she said, sighing. “They might end up being perfect for someone else, just… I need to let them go.” It seemed a bit too emotional to get over just a pair of – –

And then, it dawned on me. She wasn’t talking about shoes at all.

It was me. The thing about being too big, that was easy. My ego, my mouth, take your pick. Blistering sarcasm rubbing her the wrong way. At the same time, life with me must have constricted. Rigid, inflexible, unyielding, that was all me. I had no give.

I was the shoe that wouldn’t be broken in, would never be comfortable, and instead inflicted pain every day. And, like she said, she had tried, she sure had. If only I had matched the effort, instead of counting on her forgiving me or blaming herself or something other than my rudeness or carelessness. I was sorry, always sorry, without ever apologizing.    

She was right about everything, except the last part. About being right for someone else. I was wrong, wrong the way I knew I was so many times I never admitted, never said aloud. I was wrong, unsuitable for anyone. I was a pair of shoes suited best for hanging on a power line.  

My mouth hung open, but no words came out. So very like me. I always so much to say when I should have just shut up, but when I really needed to say some heartfelt words, I had nothing.  

Love you, goodbye, she said, making her exit. “Love you too!” I said, so overly enthused that it must have sounded like mocking. Ninety percent of the time, that’s a fair assumption.

And then the house was empty. I used to think I liked having the place to myself. Now it was just a huge void. I had one in my stomach as well. My head was filled with a billion personal improvements I needed to make. Should have made already, while I had the chance. Too late, much too late, I hurried toward the door that had shut on my life.

The door of opportunity flew open before I got to it. “You won’t believe this, but – “

She forgot the shoes. The actual shoes. The shoes she was taking back, that she’d been telling me about.

I’m such an idiot.

“Hey,” she said, touching my hand, really seeing me. I wondered if she recognized the about-to-cry look on my face. Probably not, I was that guy who thinks men shouldn’t cry, and certainly never front of anyone. That was the old me, though. “You wanna come along with me?” she asked.

“Nah,” I said.

I’m kidding. I moved faster than I had for a long time. The new Me is wasting no time.