I always get so paranoid about the girls having everything they need, to the point that they probably have a bit too much. They needed sneakers for our daily evening walks (part of our new routine) and I thought out loud with them as to where we should go to find them.
“Are we going to that store where the lady gave us mood rings?” I must have looked confused because Bella added, “the one downtown where she always gives us stickers.”
Leave it to my girls to make a chain store feel like a neighborhood mom and pop store and to look forward to a shoe store that I dreaded as a kid, Payless. These kids are so used to getting their shoes at locations as varied as: Nordstroms, the alleys in downtown L.A., Gilt (online), and of course Payless for the seasonal wares, that they don’t see the difference between them all. They walked off to play with their dolls and I was left lost in my thoughts about shoes.
When I was about nine years old I used to have constant nightmares of showing up to school barefoot. It wasn’t that we were destitute, we always had the necessary items. The real problem was that we were taught so well to never ask for anything that my mother never noticed when I needed new shoes. In the fourth grade I had one pair of shoes and they were these white huaraches; I ran in them, played basketball in them, and dragged my feet in them as I walked home. They were soon obliterated to the point that they were falling apart around my feet. In the school yard, I looked for my sister and showed her my sandals with the ripped straps. I kept dragging my foot on the floor so no one could tell that my sandal had become completely undone. She left me with her friend, Bertha, and ran off to find a stapler. Seconds before the morning bell rang she stapled my sandal back in place around my foot and smiled at me triumphantly. I smiled back and gingerly walked off to line up for class.
As soon as I walked into Ms. Aurajo’s class the strap broke again and boys being boys, i.e.
mean and stupid immature, loudly started to make fun of my huaraches, taunting me about being too poor to buy a proper pair of shoes. Ms. Aurajo walked over and looked down at my feet and without a word sent me to the nurses office with a scribbled note I couldn’t read. I dragged my foot across the hallway so the sandal wouldn’t fall off and with each step I could feel my cheeks grow hotter and redder.
When I got to the nurses office and handed her my note, she asked me to sit down. I was about ready to cry but she prepared a cot for me to sleep in and tucked me in and asked me to take a nap and promised I would feel better when I woke up. I lay there confused, unsure of what to do so I kept my eyes nearly closed knowing my long eyelashes would make it seems as if I was sleeping, something I had learned to do at home when I didn’t want anyone knowing I was awake. I studied her face and noticed that she had her eye make up done the same way as my mother, with an electric blue across her eye fold and a bright pink across her brow. She had shoulder length jet black hair with the bangs teased up, just like my mom. But her eyes were a lovely almond shape, just like Ms. Aurajo would kindly point out my eyes were shaped like. She had smooth olive skin and pretty lips.
I dozed off and when I woke up, Ms. Shiro was there holding my hand in hers. I tensed up and pulled back but the kind look in her eyes made me relax and I longed for her to hold my hand again. “Susana, do you have any other shoes at home?” “No, yes. I have a pair of tenis but my mom says they are for Christmas.” “But we’re in September. No matter, come back tomorrow morning, I will have a pair of shoes waiting for you.” I looked horrified and ready to bawl, what would my mom think if I came home with a pair of shoes from this pretty nurse? I walked home with my restapled shoe and couldn’t bring myself to say anything to my sister or my mom. The next morning I went straight to class but the nurse came by my classroom and asked me to follow her. I kept pinching my arm to distract myself from the horrifying embarrassment I was going to cause my mom when she saw me. Ms. Shiro took my sandals and unceremoniously dropped them into her metal trash bin and handed me a pair of patent black shoes. They were a shiny black with a rounded toe and mary jane style strap, they were lovely. Which made me feel all the uglier in having to walk home in them. My sister looked down at my feet and gave me a look that said, “Oh boy, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you get home.”
I was hoping to get home and somehow avoid my mom but she walked outside as we were walking in and saw my shoes immediately and soon enough she got the story out of me. And I close my eyes to not remember what came next as I was soon in my room with silent tears rolling down my cheeks, pinching myself to distract myself from the pain on my legs and the wounded look I caused in my tired mother’s face.