The women are wearing ladders on their feet. Stiff legged, they limp out of church. One clomps along lifting her feet high off the ground – “must control the shoes before the shoes control me”, while another moves as she would whisper, trying to keep her legs from realizing what her feet are wearing.
Two of them do the baby-step-shuffle down the street. It will take them an hour to travel two-hundred yards. They giggle self-consciously and hold onto each other for stability. If goes over, the other one’s going down too.
The parade hobbles past. A blur of satin dresses and feathered hats. Into the hotel. A few rush to seats in the lobby. The braver ones continue towards the bar. I count twelve pair of stilts. Three pair of high-rise wedges. Six pair of ‘not quite reasonable’ heels.
I imagine badly scraped knees and hunched backs and lumpy knotted toes. I wonder why someone would subject themselves like this. I think about living on the ground floor of a tall apartment building. I was a teenager. Rocky was a little older than me and lived on the fourth floor. We met in the stairwell to draw. I drew monsters in dumb-looking shoes. He drew gorgeous models wearing bizarre yet intriguing high-heels.
We would sharpen our pencils. Lay out our sheets of white paper.
“Ten for me and ten for you.”
Rocky drew as fast as he talked. I don’t remember what about but by the end his sheets were brimming with alternative shoe designs. Some were weaponized; pointed, sharp with spikes at the toe. There were the nose-bleeders; skyscrapers with spindles. And the double-pronged tottering heels that looked like they were manufactured in hell.
He designed ways for women to murder their feet long before anyone else did. He was a podiatrist’s nightmare. A chiropractor’s dream.
His shoe models always came to a bad end. Severed legs and feet, bones protruding and a smattering of gore but, the shoes were always perfect. Not one drop of blood, not one fleck of flesh.
My time with Rocky made an impact. High shoes frightened me. I tried to wear platforms but eventually ran back to the safety of sneakers. I have a few mottoes in life. “Stay balanced”, is one of them.
Unfortunately, our drawing days were numbered. Rocky was seen as ‘dangerous’. The stairwell was off-limits to me.
Now, as I marvel at the last of the stuttering feet, I wonder what happened to Rocky. Did he grow up to be a famous shoe designer? Is he leader of the cult of Foot Masochism? Is he directing scary high-heel movies?
Or was he just a kid with a vivid imagination and a fast pencil who had a vision of the future of footwear and took it to its most excruciatingly beautiful end.