December 2014

Shelf Life

Melissa Campbell

She likes her white shoes, so she never wears them. They sit on a shelf high in her closet with the lid placed neatly on top to keep dust and other unwanted debris from entering. Her wallet is fifty-three dollars lighter because of those shoes, and she’s put them on her feet for approximately five minutes and three seconds if we’re being generous. Four of those minutes were in the store, before she’d bought them, just to make sure they would fit just right. Does it matter whether they fit or they don’t when they’ve never left the house on her feet?

It doesn’t bother her, you know, that there are fifty-three dollar shoes in her closet that never see the light of day. And I think sometimes that I’m those shoes, too. That perhaps she likes me so much that she’s afraid of soiling me if she’s allowed to wear me for too long. And that’s why she doesn’t ring and doesn’t write and only sneaks to my door when it rains and the ceilings leak and her hair clings to her neck like the tentacles of an octopus.

I think that maybe I am those shoes, and she loves me more than all of the others, and that’s why she can take the others out of their boxes and bring them to dinner and take them dancing and toss them off. And I think that from time to time she does take them out of the box, the white shoes. She sits on her bed with her whipped icing legs bare and her frosting coated toenails, and she slips the shoes on her feet and looks at them dazzle like she would a painting in a museum.

She never lets them touch the ground. They hover just inches above the floor, and she kicks her legs and she smiles and she runs her hands over the black stitching in the white shoes like she runs her hands over the stubble on my chin, afraid to touch it but afraid not to, too. Then she puts them back and grabs another pair, the ones she’s already scuffed, the ones that give her blisters and aches and make her take long, hot baths to sooth her soles.

She lost her favorite jacket once. It was green, it fit her well, and when the man in the crisp suit asked kindly whether he could take her jacket before she sat down, please, she almost said no. But she didn’t. And another lady with a green coat that didn’t fit her nearly as well made off with it.

People are always taking her things, or she’s always losing them, or they’re breaking or getting old. Sometimes I don’t blame her for keeping the shoes in their box. At least they’re safe, you know? But what a waste, right? What a fucking waste.

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