I knew a shoe once, who knew a shoe, who knew Cinderella’s glass slippers. Or, to be accurate, my friend knew the single remaining glass slipper. Cinderella threw the other slipper, the left one as it turns out, at Prince Charming during one of their more violent arguments. The prince ducked, the slipper missed him and shattered against the stone wall of the castle bedroom. Glass shrapnel everywhere, and now a slipper without a mate.
Can you imagine it, a shoe made of glass? Not very practical, but you can’t beat the romance factor. I’m made of sterner stuff: leather, high-tech plastics, metal hooks and eyes, hard steel in the toes. My owner, Brandon, bought me at an army surplus store, and while I’m technically a combat boot, the worst combat I’ll ever see is the mosh pit at a Dead Kennedy’s concert. Which is not to say that’s not a high-danger zone: Brandon had to carry Norm to the emergency room a couple months ago when Norm’s ankle snapped while he was slam-dancing. Of course, they both bragged about it for weeks afterward. But the weapons—brass knuckles, steel-toed boots—are body weapons made for smashing, and you have to work pretty hard to actually kill someone with them. Combat of a more intimate, if less deadly, expression.
But anyway… The glass slipper. I’m remembering it now because the girl’s shoes look just like the glass slippers. Hers are made of black satin, but they have that same low, dainty heel, the same classic line, the same gentle point at the toe. They go well with her black lace dress with the shoulder pads and electric blue accents, her Madonna gloves, her black pillbox hat with the poof ball and the short lace veil. She’s still a kid, fifteen years old. Brandon’s only sixteen. They dress in all black most of the time, but they shouldn’t have to wear the kind of black they’re wearing now. Not at fifteen.
Their friend Tyvan is at the mic, doing a pretty good job with “I Did it My Way”: the actual Frank Sinatra version, not the Sid Vicious impersonation, which is what you might expect with this crowd. These children organized their own memorial because the dead man’s family refused to let them come to the “actual” funeral. We’re at their regular Saturday-night venue, one of the old-style art houses that are now quickly disappearing: a single large auditorium with a blood-colored carpet printed with paisley curls, the lobby in art-deco mint green, spongy underneath my hard soles. On the matte-black wood of the stage, Tyvan’s Oxfords just caught the stage lights, flashing at the audience as he planted his feet apart for the outro. Tyvan’s Fedora and I are pretty close, and tonight he is making us proud. Dave, their dead friend, he did it his way.
We shoes, we know more than you might think. Of course, we have no volition of our own—we can’t get up and walk around of our own accord—but we make up for that in perspicacity. We know the road; we remember where it’s been, we see where it leads. Plus, we talk to each other. I tell Brandon’s size thirteen come-fuck-me-pumps about the hypodermic needles I crush underneath my soles some nights. His CFMs talk to the leather wingtips in the bathroom stalls, while all that grunting and moaning is going on up above. The man-pumps bring the stories back to our closet. I think they frighten the ratty slippers sometimes.
I’ll tell you something I know. The year is 1985, and the place is San Francisco. Brandon pulls out his CFMs on most Saturday nights, along with the corset and pink and black boa. They head out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, put on their little burlesque, and then get drunk, get high, get kicked out of Denny’s at 4am and then go have sex with whomever happens to be around. What else are you going to do at 4am on a Saturday night when you’re a teenager and a freak, when you’re not welcome anywhere? Last week, Brandon and the girl had sex on the back of a skateboard in the parking lot of a doughnut shop, waiting for it to open at 5:30am. I was around for that one. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, in San Francisco in 1985. The drugs and the rock and roll are wreaking havoc on their child bodies, but it’s the sex that’s killing them.
They’re all terrified. Nobody talks about it. And nobody really knows anything. […]
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Audrey McCombs is an MFA student in creative writing and environment at Iowa State University, and the Creative Director for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Audrey’s work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Earthspeak Magazine, Pay Attention: a River of Stones, and Beaches and Parks from Monterey to Ventura. She holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, and before going back to graduate school, she worked in natural resources management for many years. She has lived in Asia, Europe and Africa.