New Shoes

The first time I found shoes that fit
I was twenty-three
I cried right there in the store
I wasn’t broken

It’s funny the things we give value
the things we give meaning

I got new shoes today
and I remembered that other pair
winter boots, really
found in the children’s section
for years, I’d been too proud to go there
but they make kids’ shoes that don’t look like kids’ shoes now
and all I wanted was nice lace-ups
something that went up to my calf
I’d had Uggs prior
and they were warm as heck
but I wanted something different
and no matter how many shoes I tried on
no matter how many looked right
they would always squeeze my feet
tell me how they were too wide
why couldn’t I have skinnier feet?
why couldn’t I have longer feet?
why did I have to have short fat feet?
and those boots would squish my toes together
they would laugh
they would fit the small foot and not the big one
they would tell me I’d never be a real adult
I’d never be taken seriously
I’d never find what I’m looking for
I’d never be seen
not how I wanted to be seen
“How silly you are”
those shoes would say
“to think that you could succeed
to think that you could grow up
when you have these stupid little feet
always too big or too small
this world wasn’t made for you
you’re a mistake
you’ll never stand on your own two feet
in shoes that fit
you’ll never make it out of the children’s table
at family gatherings
you’ll never be good enough for us
And those stupid shoes, I believed them
but I was determined not to
and so I finally decided
“Fine, enough of the adult section
It’s clear you don’t want me anyways
I will be an adult on my own terms”
and I found boots that fit
I didn’t think they would
I put the right one on with fear and trembling
would it fit my widest foot?
it did
I held my breath
where did my toes end?
at the end of the boot
I could hardly believe it
On went the left boot
and there I stood
I moved around a little–
did they still fit?
They still fit
and I cried with my mom standing there
for the first time
she understood what it meant to me
to have shoes that fit.

I got new shoes today
the kind you can wear to interviews
and teach in
I need a shoehorn to put them on
which is cool;
I’ve never had a shoehorn before
and the saleslady gave me one for free
that was cool, too
but the best part
was that they were in the adult section
and they fit

I’m not a shoe person
but I love my new shoes
and you would think that,
after years of avoiding shoes that aren’t sneakers
you’d think I didn’t want these shoes as much as I did
but I always did
the problem was that I’d given up
and thought that there was no point anymore
I would never find that Holy Grail Pair of Shoes
not in a store
off the shelf
sitting there, waiting for me
no, no, not for me
I would have to settle for second best
live with what was made for someone else
as if that was the best I could get
and it was the best I ever hoped for
and it’s shoes
and it’s stupid
but it’s not shoes
it’s a pair of winter boots I still wear that reminded me
there’s a life out there for me
a place where I fit
because it was never about shoes that fit me
as if belonging comes in sizes
it was always shoes that I fit
and what that meant to me.

The first pair of shoes I found that fit me
were a pair of winter boots
I found in the children’s section
when I was twenty three
and when I went to find new shoes today
(that weren’t sneakers)
(that were nice)
(and my age)
it took a while to find them
and I couldn’t help but wonder if my boots had lied to me
and they were the only ones
that I should be happy that I at least had them
but then there were these lovely brown shoes
and I recognized them
I recognized the brand
they made sneakers, too, and I had a pair that fit
and it wasn’t long before I found
that all those old shoes that pinched my feet
had told me lies
they were all just jealous
they couldn’t hold me
but these shoes could
and I wonder how all those unclaimed shoes feel
“I was made for someone”
they say
“that someone will come
they have to come
I’m here
and I hope the people they were made for
never stop trying
to find the shoes they fit.

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