Holes In My Shoes

Friday, October 14, 2016 Of Minds And Mixtapes 0 Comments



I resemble everyone 

but myself, and sometimes see
in shop-windows
despite the well-known laws
of optics,
the portrait of a stranger,
date unknown,
often signed in a corner
by my father.
   -- Self-Portrait
   by A.K. Ramanujan 

Joe was pacing up and down the pavement opposite the church yard when I got off the bus a few metres ahead. Adjusting his rain jacket cuff, he scanned the momentary crowds of shrieking school kids and chattering elderly folks trying to make their way across the street to their respective dogmas. He didn't notice me at all until I walked up right beside him and whispered "Hello, favourite man".

"Long time, no see" he says, as he hands me the newspaper and an ├ęclair from the usual bakery. He tilts his head to take a better look at me and my hair. "Don't women comb their hair anymore?", he asks as he gets into the car, pretending to not want an answer.
I too pretend like he didn't want an answer.

The sights and sounds of the place almost immediately pour in.
We drive by the usual bakery with it's new wood-looking sign board that spells the name incorrectly-- or correctly now; I can't tell which.
A couple of priests, collared but in casual wear, cross the busy junction like they own it.
My swanky neighbour is hunched over a basket of custard apples, haggling away. 

Liz has finally learnt to ride her bicycle without training wheels. David has a beautiful beard.
Usha looks lovely with those flowers in her hair.
Caitu's Chetak is shiny. So is Caitu.

Pulling into the car park, "How are you?", asks Joe; this time looking at me.
"I'm okay, I'm alright" I reply in a sing-song manner.
He studies my face face for a while, then unbuckles his seat belt and gets out of the car. As we quietly walk up the stairs, our cordial silence is broken by an unassuming question, "What happened to your shoes?"
"I don't know... they've worn out", I reply.
"Worn out like this?... Did you go hiking with them?"
"Nope."
"Why didn't you throw them out?"
"They're my favourite shoes."
"Throw them out."
"I'll fix them."
"Throw them out!"

I climb the stairs a little faster hoping he'll lose sight of my shoes.

**

Happiness is a freshly baked jack fruit cake. Happiness is also meeting your mother after months.
My books were on the coffee table. My mail unopened. The sister reads Section 292 of the IPC aloud as she gestures me to give her a hug. She laughs about the absurd use of language in the bare act; but who's to tell if the absurdity is one of language or intention? 

We the people, perhaps; perhaps not.

Mom doesn't want to be part of this conversation, but gives us her two cents nonetheless-- "Don't ever get on the wrong side of law. Ever!"
"What am I for, Ma?" quips my sister, sending us into splits of laughter. Ma doesn't think lawyering is funny business, though.

Jut then, an arrhythmic handwriting on a very white paper on my table caught my attention--
'Beach. Will pick you people at 5'
Joe's note. "You people", he calls us occasionally.

**

As the sun was getting lower we began to walk down, amazed at how much of the beach had eroded. Our shadows got pointier and pointier. We talked about travelling, exes, grief, my torn shoes and Brexit; and in that order. I also made a couple of pithy comments about Catholicism and guilt, the first couple of which went down quite well. 

He stared at the setting sun with an indelible smile on his face and said, "Let's sit here, I'm tired." We couldn't have been walking for more than two kilometres; and we've walked a lot more often times before.
And as he sat in the sand he began to croon another oldie, Claudia, like he used to a many years ago; when ironing his shirt, polishing his shoes, and stirring his tea aimlessly-- except this time, he seemed a little older, a little vulnerable, and that felt very odd. He also looked much smaller than I remember.
Maybe I remember wrong. Maybe I'm a bit too self obsessed to notice much beyond my own self.

A blazing horizon and the sound of waves is fairly hypnotic but I plug in my earphones to feel a little lighter. Hey There Delilah interrupted my train of thought, taking me back to class 10 when a bunch of us were eating milk powder in a tent at some scout and guide camp, next to a cemetery. These scout and guide events, with all it's badges, patches, hiking and camping, were carefully frivolous. The fleur-de-lis came with it's own flower power of sorts, and we liked it. But of course in the years that followed passive resistance lost it's charm, and Plain White Tees gave way for the likes of Breaking Benjamin and Green Day. 

And the shoes, I've had them for a little more than five years now. They've seen hot summers and cold winters, old hills, new shorelines and traditional immigration lines.
They've attended a wedding or two.
Been atop bars and under beds.
I surely hope to have them for a couple years more, if I can only fix the torn seams. 

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