My freshman year in college, before I became shoe obsessed, I only owned two pairs of shoes. One was my pair for running, beat-up sneakers with a hole in the left toe. And then there was my signature pair: my silver Docs.
I bought them during my freshman semester abroad in London. And, although at the time my style was more Nine West than downtown funky, I missed my best high school friend Holly-and she was Docs all the way. If she could not be in London with me, I could at least channel her spirit in this massive shop in Camden town, surrounded by combat boots and relics of punks gone by. They may not have been ruby slippers, but somehow their sparkle cheered my homesick heart. And so I bought them–along with a purple glittered pair for Holly. “We can be shoe sisters,” I told her in the letter I enclosed with her shoes. “Someday when I am home, we will trade one shoe each.”
Over the next few months, I broke my shoes in, wearing to school with corduroys and an Oxford. I wore them dancing to the Limelight, where I had $2,000 in traveler’s checks stolen from my jacket pocket. I wore them with jeans and tight tops out to pubs where we played darts and ate jacket potatoes at dawn. Those shoes became cracked and worn as they carried me through my homesickness and carried me towards new friends.
Some bonds survive anything. But not ours. One New Years Eve, months after my return from London, we found each other at a party, each wearing our Docs. We swapped, just to fulfill a promise we’d made months before when we really meant it. But, on my left foot, her shoe felt foreign, wrong, unworn. I barely knew her.
Ten years later, my Docs are gone, disappearing into the back of my closet and finally out the door one day during a cleaning frenzy in my early 20’s. Like a high school friendship, their time had passed. And so I let them go. Gone, but not forgotten.