A pair of yellow heels slumps at the bottom of my closet. They’re new – unworn, in fact – but they look long-forgotten. It’s funny how shoes seem to take on certain moods. We imagine the person who wears them, their state of mind when they kicked them off or placed them neatly down. We think of where they’ve been, or might go next.
The left shoe leans against the wall, looking fatigued; the right lies on its side some inches away, at best apathetic, at worst defeated. I bought them days before the lockdown began, when a false sense of normality still prevailed. I had vague intentions of wearing them “out”, paired with black or bold block colours: blue, purple, red. I can wear these anywhere, I thought.
Unimaginable, now. Within the dark confines of the wardrobe, and amidst the competing silences of bedroom, house and street, they’re incongruously loud and bright. Neon yellow with towering, stocky heels. Strappy, sassy, mocking. We should be going places.
How long, I wonder, until I’ll wear them for the first time? They’re far too extravagant for a trip to the supermarket, obviously. I’d break an ankle if I wore them for any of the approved forms of daily exercise – not to mention that I’d be laughed out of the park. Not sensible enough for the office, either, once it reopens. Nipping to a friend’s house to sit in the garden, when that’s allowed? Driving to a beauty spot?
No – these shoes just aren’t the right fit. They weren’t made for the rough terrain unfolding ahead of us. Fashionable only a few weeks ago, they belong to a bygone era.
Reaching for each in turn, I slip them on and do up the buckles. I stand unsteadily, unused to finding my feet after so long, and cross to the mirror.
I can’t believe what I see. I mean, I look ridiculous in my baggy, off-white pyjama top, chequered cotton shorts and these heels – but I feel transformed. Gazing into and through the mirror, I see a dancefloor, sticky with spilt drinks in the flashes of strobe lights. I hear a deep, insistent beat, feel it thudding in my chest, and I start to move.
My focus shifts back to the shoes. I’m dimly aware of an occasional sharp twinge in the soles of my feet, but I can’t look away – twisting and turning, rocking from toe to heel and back again. With an instinctive glance over my shoulder at the empty room, I twirl on the spot a few times, steady myself with one hand on the mirror and shriek with laughter. The stabbing sensation is constant now, but I stay where I am a while longer, lost in thought.
Freedom will feel strange at first, and painful perhaps – but we’ll lose ourselves in the light and the noise and the energy of it, and fall back into step with life as if we’d never been out of it.
Laura Coleman writes short stories, poetry and creative non-fiction, mostly about the mind and human relationships. Her short story, OBSESSION, won first prize in the Ilkley Literature Festival Short Story Competition 2019. She hopes to write a novel one day, if she can ever get further than the fifth page. She tweets at @lauravcoleman