My eyes are tired. We’re sitting here in the coffee shop in another soulless suburb on a yawning Saturday. We don’t have much to say to each other so I distract myself again by picking at the crusted coffee around the lip of my cup.
I’m taken by the shape of people’s shoes as they walk past, and if I keep my head at an angle I can’t see their heads. I sneak a glance at you, and you’re looking in the other direction, freeing me up to follow the shoes. If you caught me with my head bowed and angled like this, peering out the grimy franchise coffee shop window, you’d make that sound between your teeth.
But shoes always make me guess. Some arch and bend, but others flick-flick-flick past. I like the ones that are struck by indecision – they tap, or jiggle, or move one way and stop, gather with another pair and converse tongue to tongue. I once saw a pair that lunged and slid in a pattern, and it drove me crazy so I had to look up and see who they belonged to. Generally I try not to look. That’s part of the test. Looking up is cheating, looking up tells another story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed in the faces of the shoes I’ve seen.
In truth I prefer the shoes. In the time that it takes for a pair to pass my vision I need to work out where they are going and why. I have to look for the telltale marks that tell me who they are.
I look for the high heels with the little cap of plastic missing off the pointy bit of heel because they are the girls who work too hard. The worn down women with visions of whom they might have been, refusing to give up on a pair of shoes. They are walking on their exposed nub of metal underneath. They are the shoes of frantic days, of skittered steps creating an annoying thud-click, thud-click as the pair doesn’t quite match up anymore.
Then there are the inflated trainers, scuffed at the sides, that don’t so much walk as kind of roll along. The movement means the shoes are nervous, but they don’t want you to know that and they’d spit at you rather than admit it.
I also like the soft canvas shufflers. There is a gentle acceptance in their movement, a sliding gait. They are the conversationalists, these shoes, but not in a showy way. They save that showy display for those awful plastic cloggy things that scream loudly as they walk. No, the canvas shufflers are the quiet ones. They take in their surrounds. They pause, mutter gently before apologetically turning around and going the other way.
My coffee is cold now. You’ve been watching me watch the shoes over the chaos of your newspaper with your simultaneous disgust and disapproval. There is nothing I can say. I glance down at your shoes.
in response to a prompt offered up by the Graphic Scratch – “people watching”