I’m walking through the store, dragging my feet as I noticeably limp and feel their eyes on me scanning down to my feet. I know they’re searching for some visible sign of a handicap, some indication of why I am walking the way I do. They’re not going to find it, unless they were to sit me down and take off my shoes—new ones—and find the blisters freshly-formed on my heels where the stiff leather backings meets the soft leathery flesh. I shuffle on and try to ignore it, while simultaneously trying to make them guess that something really is wrong and I deserve their pity.
I know why I’m there and that it is for only one item and yet I find myself walking down the aisle where they keep the holiday candy items and find the Christmas candies replaced by Valentines’ Day candy. And it isn’t even January yet. I wonder if my feet are bleeding yet, if I am leaving a trail that shows me entering and quickly exiting this aisle.
I decide to just stick with the plan and go directly to the needed item, but of course it is located on the far end of the store and I need to shuffle, in pain, to the far aisles that have no real need to be that far away. It would make more sense, to me, for the seasonal items to be tucked away by the liquor and the coloring books and the organic goods, rather than the items everyone needs at any given time to be as far away from the door as humanly possible.
I concentrate on moving forward, the pain making each step more difficult and I start to worry about people pitying me rather than desiring it. It’s all I can do to not stop, reach down, and remove the shoes and carry them in my hands. And so I continue.
I glance up and stop. An outline of a man’s cheek, the shape of his head, the back of his ears and the closely cut dark hair. My heart does that thing people always write about, where it jumps up and chokes you for a minute then continues on like nothing at all happened. It looked so much like him, like how I remembered him. And I know it can’t be him, that it isn’t him, but still my heart chokes me. The faint shadow of stubble and smile lines that I can practically see, feel, him turn his head towards me and have his eyes light up in that deceiving way. But it’s not him, and it won’t be him, and what’s there to say he still even has that devilish light in his eyes. Or, if he does still have it, if the sight of me would still be enough to ignite it. And would I even want that reaction if it was him? Would I want to know that I still have that effect on him; would I still want him to have that same effect on me?
I look back down and when I look back up again, the feeling is gone and I can feel the pain in my heels again. It’s not him, it won’t be him, and I shouldn’t even be thinking of him. I have errands to run and I need to get an item and what business does he have sneaking back into my thoughts anyway? I focus instead of the pain in my feet because I know that over time it will get better and the rigidity of the backs of the shoes will loosen up and begin to provide a comfortable environment. The thoughts of him, on the other hand, are a different story.