Thursday, December 24, 2015
Fall Shoes: An Essay by Elena Harap
Centre Street in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, an August afternoon: on the sidewalk outside a storefront full of elegant high-heeled shoes and boots, a sandwich board announces Fall Shoes Arriving Daily. In the daze of late summer, a parade approaches me––brand-new sling-backs, platform shoes, patent leather slippers, alligator pumps, silver stilettos, suede winter boots––down the sidewalk with a steady click and tap. Must be coming from the Post Office, I think; they’ve vaulted out of their packing cases to head straight for the shoe store.
Pair by pair, the New Fall Shoes process sociably along, past the toy store, the yoga studio, the barber shop. Maybe they are making appraising remarks about ordinary pedestrians’ dusty sneakers and unfashionably blunt-toed pumps; they sneer at my sockless feet in square-cut Birkenstock sandals. ”At least she ought to paint her toenails,” they chatter, in French, Italian, Hebrew, and Chinese; do shoes speak an international language, converse in Esperanto?
They disappear into the dark alcove of the shoe store doorway, tappity-tap, tappity-tap, leaving me out on the sidewalk with shoppers, kids in strollers, office workers returning to their cubicles, couples on their way to a late lunch. A vision of high fashion has passed among us and vanished, to reemerge on the feet of stylish Boston women. Trudging home in my sandals, in a different foot-world, I ponder: how does one walk and dance, balanced on those tapered heels?
In subsequent walks on Centre Street, I observe the sandwich board continuing to announce new arrivals. I see in the bold black letters the turning of the seasons, a call that demands some response, just as the crying of Canada geese in their great V, flying south, demands that I run outdoors and see them off.
And so I greet them: Welcome, Fall Shoes, as you sashay down the street, broadcasting your glamour, drumming your challenge in the tapping of your heels, reminding us—It’s a new season, ladies! Streamline your toes, be sexy and daring, risk your accustomed balance. Next time I’m going to enter the shadowed doorway and get introduced. I’ve already borrowed my granddaughter’s toenail polish. Any day now, I might be arriving somewhere—chic, au courant, sophisticated, in my new fall shoes.