When the Shoes Don’t Fit: A Short Story

by Cherise Charleswell

Elise was seated on the floor, with her body twisted in such a manner that she resembled a contortionist. It has been her habit to sit this way since childhood, even though her mother and grandmother warned her that doing so would be bad for her circulation. She even slept in a curled up position, because it is how she feels most comfortable, and safe. The thought of sleeping unfolded and open actually frightened her. Those positions made her feel too vulnerable. Elise chuckled as she thought back to that moment when she was forced to adjust her sleeping and seating style. It was when she was sure that she noticed faint signs of varicose veins on the back of her calves.

Hell no! 
Was granny right about that circulation stuff? 
What is that?

On that day she decided that she needed to see the back of her legs more clearly. So, her morning routine included twisting her body into even more impossible positions and strutting over to the mirror and assuming the position that video vixens and Instagram models use when they wanted to “look back at it,” with the “it” being their derrieres, which they seem to believe defined their self-worth. Elise however, was more concerned about her academic and professional pursuits and intellectual attributes, and completely hated those back shot photos. Her cousins always tried to get her to pose in that manner, and her ample bottom was the topic of many conversations. When she decided to pursue graduate school, her cousins joked that it was unnecessary because “these days a big booty is more profitable than any college degree.” All she could do was shake her head and ignore their comments, along with the roaming eyes of various men who stared at her too intently when she walked by. When she noticed this attention, she immediately found herself feeling vulnerable, and needing to close herself off from the male gaze. She would often fold her arms across her large chest as she walked away--quickly.

So, here she was now, once again folded like a pretzel with her long fire engine red locs, draped across her face like a thick and luxurious velvet curtain, completely blocking her field of view. It was time for a break and to unravel her body. The palm of her hands were now turning a beet red hue. Elise had no idea that the simple act of buckling ankle-wrapped platform heels would be so time-consuming. After what seemed like an eternity, she was still unable to fasten the buckle on her right foot, leaving her with damp underarms and droplets of perspiration across her forehead. So, much for “maximum strength” she thought, as she glanced at the discarded deodorant stick that remained on the edge of her king size platform bed. However, she was not yet ready to abort the mission, and realized that she had to look silly, fighting with a pair of shoes that she had not worn in years. If it weren’t for the special occasion, they certainly would have remained at the back of her closet, where they were awaiting a trip to the shoemaker. The last time that she attempted to get into them, she broke two nails, and decided to banish the shoes until she was able to have a shoemaker replace the difficult buckle. Now, here she was again, attempting to do what seems like the impossible. She bent down, and using a nail clipper, extended the central prong of the buckle and held it in place long enough to secure the shoe in its place. There, it was done! With a sense of accomplishment she stood up and surveyed the disaster zone, otherwise known as her bedroom.

Her bed was covered with the numerous articles of clothing that she had decided to forego before settling on the body conscious vibrant colored African Ankara print dress that hugged her curves but managed to allow her to look somewhat modest and unassuming, even though she knew exactly what she was doing. The dress followed the contours of her voluptuous body in the right places. Those squats certainly paid off, she thought, as she smiled at her reflection in the mirror. Elise had a body type that was once referred to as a “brick-house.” It was thick and strong, and the only time that she started to question the attractiveness of her body, was when she began to hear the harsh statements made about tennis superstar Serena Williams’ figure because it resembled her own.

Elise shook off the thought and looked down at her legs. The 4” high black ankle-wrap velvet heels only added to her naturally tall 5’11” frame and helped to make her ensemble more alluring, and of course discreetly sexy. She was serving LEGS this evening! As she grabbed her clutch she stopped to check her appearance one last time in the mirror, paying particular attention to the way her hips swayed as she walked up to it. She loved how the heels transformed her gait into something far more sensual than her usual manner of walking. Hell, they made her look good!

She remembered when he told her that she should definitely purchase the heels. They had decided to go to the mall on a lunch break, and before making it to the food court, she noticed them in a shop window. She proceeded, but had them locked in her view for some time. He noticed and told her that she had to go back to try them on before they returned to the office. She did just that, and when she had difficulty with the infamous buckles, he mumbled something about getting back late and offered to assist her. Within seconds she was modeling them, and within minutes, they were in a shopping bag clutched in her hand.

That was about six years ago and she could not believe that he remembered their outing so clearly. She was ecstatic when he asked her to accompany him, and was trying her best to keep her composure in his presence. Her feelings for him were now beyond a crush. Elise found Gerald to be intoxicating. His voice was a deep masculine baritone that commanded attention when he spoke. He stood about 6’4”, which she thought was perfect considering her own Amazonian height. He had deep chocolate brown skin and the confidence and swagger that reminded her of the actor Idris Elba. Things never went anywhere with Gerald however, because he was in a tumultuous relationship, and she was the friend that he contacted when he needed to vent or get away. Unlike many men who considered themselves “the good guys” she never got bitter about being placed in the “friend zone.” For years she sat ready and waiting to comfort her friend, who she wished would see her as something more; and when she realized that he would not, she grew content with just being a friend.

This past year, Gerald finally became single and last night they were messaging each other on Facebook. He had seen the photos of her niece’s high school graduation, and messaged her to tell her that he was amazed by how quickly time flies, because he could remember meeting Alexis when she was just a middle school student who was unhappy about getting braces. Now in each photo she was flashing her professionally molded smile. They went on in that way for about a half hour, and Elise couldn’t help but to scroll through Gerald’s photo albums as they chatted. Then, she got the message. He had confessed that he had an interest in her for some time, which was far from platonic, and wanted to know if she would like to meet him for dinner tomorrow evening. Although, she remained absolutely attracted to Gerald, the shock of it all caused a delayed response. She finally sent a singular message stating, “YES! I would LOVE to!” and closed her MacBook. In haste, Elise did not notice that Gerald was composing a reply. When he finally sent it, it was too late, she had already logged off.

Looking down at her now-buckled heels and feeling like Cinderella, Elise pulled herself out of the haze of reminiscing and exited her apartment. Once she reached the front of the restaurant she was racked with feelings of nervousness and excitement. She sashayed inside with the help of her heels, all while ignoring the fact that the strap was beginning to dig into her skin; and gave her name to the hostess. Apparently Gerald hadn’t arrived yet. After being seated, and seeing no sight of Gerald for some time, she decided to check her messages to see if anything had changed; and that is when she saw it, the reply that he sent. Gerald had apologized profusely for the mistake. He thought that he was typing his confession to someone named Naomi.

He had left other messages after the initial reply, inquiring on
Whether she got his message?
Was she ok?
And whether he could give her a call?

She reached for the glass of water on the table, took a big gulp, and decided to scroll through his friends list to see if she could find this Naomi, and there she was. Naomi looked a lot like the type of women Gerald dated in the past, and that means that she was everything that Elise was not. She had long wavy jet-black hair, really small almond shaped eyes, and a very petite frame. She wasn’t a Chicana like Maria, Gerald’s ex fiancé, nor did she favor Stacey Dash, a woman Gerald always referred to as his “first crush.” She looked more like Kimora Lee Simmons, or actually due to her short stature, more like Karrueche Tran, a woman who seemed to be famous for nothing more than dating R&B singer Chris Brown. How could she be so stupid, as if she did not know that she would never be Gerald’s type? She was too dark skinned, too curvaceous, her hair was too kinky. Simply put she was not “exotic” enough to be considered desirable by a Black man who was just as dark skinned as she was. That is the part that makes colorism sting even more than racism, she thought.

It was all too much. Elise realized the foolish mistake that she had made, and found herself in need of air. It was all extremely embarrassing, and she was glad that she only gave him a brief reply, rather than professing her true feelings. She got up from the table in a rush and ended up dropping her cell phone, which shattered into its component parts. She bent down to pick them up and was offered some assistance by a fellow patron of the restaurant. She noticed him briefly when she walked in earlier that evening, and now offered him a small smile and a thank you for his random act of kindness, and made a mental note to pay it forward. Without waiting to hear his reply she abruptly headed for the exit, brushing past the hostess.

Within a matter of minutes she was home. She entered her room, looked around at all of the turmoil, and sat at the edge of her bed to remove the heels. She couldn’t stand to have them on for another second; they were beginning to cut off her circulation. She had to admit that they just didn’t fit, and that the pain that they caused was not worth their aesthetic appeal. She boxed them and placed them by the door, and decided that she would add them to the box of items that she will be donating to a women’s shelter first thing in the morning--paying it forward. There was no point in holding on to them. Then, she had to admit that the same could be said for Gerald.

She awoke the next morning feeling a bit numb. Her deeply hued honey brown skin even seemed to be without its usual luster. Was this what being heartbroken felt like? She was not even dating the man. She decided to shake it off and get on with her day. As she exited the door of her apartment she saw a familiar face, it was the Good Samaritan from last night, but what was he doing here? She quickly became somewhat worried. Was she followed? The Good Samaritan noticing the look of fear that quickly crept across her face, quickly stated that his name was Giacomo and explained that he had come because Elise dropped more than her cellphone last night, her wallet was also dislodged. Giacomo extended his hand, giving the wallet to her. She quickly collected it and began thanking him profusely. He was happy to see her demeanor change, but then she began tearing up. This woman must have the worse premenstrual syndrome he thought, because her emotions seemed to be all over the place. Against his better judgment, and fearing that he may seem too forward, he reached for her chin and asked if she was ok. She nodded a “yes” and tried to regain her composure. He then asked her if she would like to get some coffee and perhaps some breakfast?

She accepted the offer and asked if they could stop by the women’s shelter that was just a short distance from her apartment, while explaining that she had some items to donate including the heels from last night. With a grin on his face, Giacomo inquired why would she give up those shoes, they looked really wonderful on her last night. Elise was shocked by his compliment and thanked him, but explained that the shoes simply did not fit and were causing her too much pain; so she decided to give them away, and seek out something that would be a better fit for her.

Photo: Shutterstock

Cherise Charleswell, is a Fierce Feminist/Womanist and independent scholar, poet, writer, activist, model, and more; who openly and actively pursues these various interests and endeavors due to her refusal to be placed “in a box” or limited by societal labels. She is part of the Feminist Magazine collective of Pacifica Radio, and serves as the Chair of the Women’s Issues for The Hampton Institute.