Friday, 21 August 2009

Love an Iceberg, Hate a Sack

I put my shoes on. I put my shoes on and ran outside in the sunshine in the middle of the day. They were snug. I’d pulled the laces taught, but not too tight. These were not new shoes. I’d had them eight months or so. I’d worn them pretty much every day. I run and walk a lot. They’d seen a lot of wear. They had become an extension of me. They were beyond comfortable.

I didn’t think of my shoes often. Everyday shoes - you don’t really, do you? After I got home from running, I placed my shoes next to the door, as always. I decided to have a beer. I sat down on the couch and put the radio on. Before I knew it, I had drifted off.

I woke up about five o’clock, surprised. I felt groggy. I try not to sleep in the afternoons. It messes my body up.

I wanted a cup of tea, but I needed milk. I would go to the shop. I went to the door to get my shoes. They weren’t there. Now I thought about my shoes.

The door was locked. No sign that it had been tampered with. I’d owned the house for ten years. As far as I knew, no one else had a set of keys. I had changed the locks shortly after buying the house. I had one spare set, which were still in their place in the kitchen draw, as always.

This didn’t stop me from going to the shops. I own two other pairs of shoes. I went to my bedroom and put on my work shoes, went out and bought the milk.

The next day I bought some suitable replacements for the shoes that had vanished. I racked my brains for the next few weeks. What had happened to my shoes? I searched the house. There was nowhere else I would have put them except by the front door.

Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that this would be one of life’s unsolved mysteries. Although I’d been fond of the shoes, I was not sentimental. They were only shoes, and there was equally good footwear out there.

In fact, I was very pleased with the replacement shoes that I had purchased. Six or seven months down the line, they had fully adjusted themselves to accommodate my feet in a satisfying embrace. One morning, I went for a swim. It was a glorious day. The sun shone. When home, I placed my shoes by the front door, as always.

I went to my study to write some letters I had been putting off. A half hour later, I was procrastinating. I went to the kitchen to make some coffee. On the way to the kitchen, passing through the hallway, I glanced at my shoes. This had become a habit, to reassure myself that they were still there. I returned to my study to procrastinate a bit more while I waited for the coffee to go through the machine, listening to it burble and bop.

Twenty minutes later I returned to the kitchen for my coffee.

Again, in the hallway I glanced at the space by the door. There were no shoes there. Perplexed, I stood staring at the spot. I was slightly unnerved. I stood there a long while. I did not try to think of explanations - I had done this the first time. I thought about the police. It would be best not to bother them with a case of missing shoes.

I telephoned a good friend. They were sympathetic, but of course were unable to offer an explanation for the disappearance of the shoes.

So, I bought another pair. This time, I also fixed a bell to my door, to help make sure that someone was not gaining access to my house when I wasn’t looking.

A few weeks later, on another sunny day, I was in the park reading the Saturday paper. At some point, I closed my eyes and dozed off. When I woke up shortly after, I noticed my feet felt different. There was a small breeze tickling them. I was not wearing my shoes. I had certainly been wearing them before I fell asleep. I looked around. No sign of them. Not on the ground, nor other people’s feet or in their hands. I took off my socks and walked home barefoot.

This continued to happen every few months at irregular intervals. Sometimes at home, as before, but other places too. At the swimming pool I placed my shoes at the bottom of my locker. When I returned, the shoes were no longer there. Other times the shoes vanished from my feet, but not always even waiting for me to fall asleep. One time I had been on a long train journey. I had been awake the whole time. As the train pulled into the station of my destination I looked at my feet. No shoes.

I considered seeing a psychiatrist. But even if was suffering from mental problems, this would not account for the whereabouts of my shoes.

This eventually became routine in itself. The disappearance of every pair of shoes that I bought became everyday in itself. I thought nothing of it.

This continued for many years.

One day, I was on the beach. It was a sunny day. I was with a partner I’d met in the years of missing shoes. She had gone down to the waters edge for a paddle. I’d stayed with our stuff, on the blanket where we’d parked ourselves near the dunes. I watched her paddle.

As I sat there a phrase entered my mind.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

A flash of an image in my mind.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I closed my eyes. The sun still glared after I’d shut them, fuzzing my head.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I saw my shoes, all lined up in a row.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

All the ones that had gone missing, ones I’d forgotten, lined up in my mind. They sat there in perfect detail, as that phrase repeated itself in my mind.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I didn't feel any emotion. They were just shoes.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

None of my shoes went missing after that.

Love an iceberg, hate a sack.

I try not to think too hard about it.

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