too many styles to choose from now --so much more of the evening
straps, Downtown pumps, ballerina flats, porno star open toed vinyl,
leopard print house flops, goth tire rubber, whip me leather boots,
surfer-girl thongs, dress sneakers (dress sneakers!?), and those
sassy slings with the kitten heel that come in pinball machine colors--sweet,
speedy and bright. Shoes you can't wear to run after a bus.
The Liberty House shoe department just
isn't the same. I know. I know. I read the Honolulu Star Bulletin;
Macy's bought out Liberty House. Yes, I realize the salesmen still
wear handsome ties and dress shirts, and they still try nonchalantly
to make eye contact with you while they cup their shoe horns, but
still, it just isn't the same. I still buy those sandals though,
the burly ones that make me look like the Romans have just served
me to the lions. I can walk for hours, run if I have to, and if
I choose the right style, my little toe shouldn't cry let me back
in. I wait for the newspaper ads with the cut-out coupons so I can
buy three pairs at a time black, brown and taupe. No, not
gray or beige. Taupe. Like fawns or mushrooms. Wilder beast colors.
OK. If you insist on killing my joy --neutral colors. White? Oh,
I'd never wear white on these feet. Look at them! No, don't look
at them. Don't give me that telepathic holy shit, skateboards look
that shoe salesmen give me whenever I place my bare foot on the
metal shoe size indicator. No. I don't hate shoe salesmen. They're
just as misunderstood as, say, six foot four women with feet to
match. I can safely say that all shoe salesmen are not like Al Bundy.
Because I dated a shoe salesman. I met him at a vegetarian cooking
I was reading the nutritional value label on a package of soy grits,
and he walks in to class right in the middle of some mystery meat
joke the nice Vegetarian Society lady had been telling. Everyone,
about twelve people, laughed, but I missed the punch line. I was
distracted. Late Guy sat next to me, and he smelled of citrus, cedar,
"Did I miss anything important?" he said.
1) He was late. 2) He missed the liliko`i
cream cheese appetizers, and 3) he asked me a really lame question
during the Vegetarian Society lady's speech on compassion for our
furry friends. He had nice hair, though. Black, tussled, pillow
hair. I ignored him, but I could feel him staring at my package
"They give that to everybody?" he said.
"What is that stuff?"
He looked so sexy in that white undershirt
he was wearing. Nice chest.
"Soy pecs," I said. I am such an idiot.
"Soy. Grits!" I whispered. "Grits! As
in TVP Texturized vegetable protein. Free sample. Here it's
yours." I pushed the lumpy package into his hand.
"No, you keep it," he said.
"Take it," I said. "I insist."
The Vegetarian Society lady asked everyone
to join her at the butcher block island to slice eggplants, so late
guy stood up. And then I stood up. My boobs met Late Guy's eyebrows;
I glanced down and saw a bald spot like an eye staring back at me
on top of his head. He bent his neck back to look up and then his
face, those eyes, looked up at my face. He didn't blink. Almost
whistled, but he coughed instead. I'm used to it. Me and Bigfoot,
you know, a.k.a. Abominable Snowman, Yeti, Sasquatch, we have this
in common; men generally look at us in disbelief.
We ended up standing next to one another
at the butcher block, our recipe handouts in front us. We soaked
our soy grits in a bowl of warm water. He sliced his eggplant. I
sliced mine. I arranged my slices in a dessert sized casserole dish.
He did the same.
"You play volleyball, right?" he said.
Here it comes. "No. And I don't play basketball."
"You're a swimmer, then?" he said. "Water
"Eight years old. Near drowning experience.
Don't like the water."
"Oh," he said. "Sorry. For a local girl,
you're just so, you know. How tall are you?"
I looked down my nose at him. "Tall enough."
He swiped his bald spot with this hand
and laughed. "OK. I deserved that." He had a little bit of stubble
around his smile, and he reminded me of Jackie Chan. Boyish with
man shoulders. God, he smelled good.
"I think the TVP is moist enough now,"
He slid his hand into the bowl and squeezed
the excess water from a clump of soggy soy grits like a sponge.
Water flowed over his slender wrist and trickled back in to the
bowl. No wedding ring.
"Louis. My name. And you're?"
I pinched some grits from our bowl and
giggled. "Not really."
"Me neither," he whispered. Big Jackie
Chan movie star grin Louis layered the soy grits and more eggplant
slices in the dish; I did the same. We were each given a saucer
of grated mozzarella and Dixie cups of whole wheat breadcrumbs,
but Louis insisted on sprinkling the cheese and crumbs on to my
casserole for me. A bowl of fresh red pepper sauce organic,
of course-- was passed around the class along with more Dixie cups
filled with different spices. Lots of spice. The oven was hot enough
by then, and by the time our casserole dishes were empty, and we
had wiped our mouths with paper napkins, I had fallen very much
in like with "Louis, my name." Not love, but a lot of like.
Now for me, love is a lot like a shoe
department. I've got the coupon, and I swear I'm going to stick
to shoes -- no lingerie, no purses, no new 3-step skin care regime.
All I need are those reliable gladiator sandals. I tell myself,
Gina, walk in, buy the shoes, and when you're done, walk out the
same door you came in. Don't go near those Chinese Laundry slides
with the golf tee heels, and stay away from the escalators. Too
After the cooking class, I pulled my bus
pass from my backpack. Louis offered me a ride to Kapahulu Avenue.
I hesitated at first, but then we ended up at Ono Hawaiian Food.
We were starving. We ordered the #7 the works. And after
we unwrapped the ti leaves off of our lau lau, we doused the fatted
pork with chili pepper water, and well, there was no holding back,
no self-conscious nibbling.
"So what do you do?" he asked.
"Vet technician. That's how I found out
about the class. My boss is vegetarian. I mostly groom dogs, but
I'm going to apply to a vet school soon. Someday, anyway. That's
"It's good to dream," he said. "Me? I
I was surprised. I took him for
I don't know, anything but a shoe salesman.
"Shoes huh? Wow. Where? Sport's Locker?"
"Sport's Locker?" He thrust his spoon
in to his poi. "No."
"Payless?" I said.
He shook his head.
"Robins?" I said.
He held up a shard of pipikaula, and then
ripped smoked beef with his teeth.
"Macy's," he said and he chomped. "Ala
Moana Shopping Center." Then he raised his hand for the waitress.
He asked for a glass of ice. Not iced water. Just ice. He looked
under the table, sat up straight and didn't say word about my feet,
didn't even lift an eyebrow. "Comfy shoes," was all he said, and
then he poured the entire bottle of chili pepper water in to his
glass of ice.
"You aren't going to drink that are you?"
He downed the entire glass as if it were
a shot of tequila.
"You should try it," he said. "I'll get
another bottle." He was about to wave down the waitress.
"No!" I said.
"Come on, Gina. Live a little. Try it."
"You don't know what you're missing,"
he said sing-song like clinking his ice cubes.
"Louis," I said. "I bet you sell a lot
He laughed. I laughed. And then there
was a silence between us, a gap between our hands on the table that
was aching to get filled, so what did I do? I stared at the walls
surrounding our table, pausing at each framed autographed photo
of the celebrities who had at one time or another eaten at Ono Hawaiian
Food. Don Ho, Carol Kai, Jack Lord, The Makaha Sons, Bradda Iz,
Frank Hewitt, Jesse Takamiyama Kahaulua, Melveen Leed, and a couple
of beauty queens like misty fairy god sisters. All of them seemed
to be smiling at Louis and me. It was as if Jack and Don might raise
their suave eyebrows to the kitchen, and a steel guitar orchestra
would come out swaying, and everyone in the restaurant would hop
on his or her table hula dancing a choreographed prelude for us,
Gina the Yeti vet tech and Louis the good shoe peddler. Who would've
"Can I tell you something, just between
you and me?" Louis said. "People tell me all the time, Louis, finish
that MBA. Aren't you sick of selling shoes? I like my job, I tell
them. Besides, I have time to do stuff non-credit classes,
read, work out
meet someone nice. But do you know what's really
cool about my job?" He leaned in closer to me across the table:
I did the same. "I get to help someone find the perfect shoe. It's
a challenge; I like to see if I can figure out a person. Everybody
has different tastes, different needs, but the truth is I can suggest
a style or try to impress you with what I know about Italian or
Brazilian leather blah, blah, blah, but in the end, you make the
choice." He finished off his haupia desert and lifted his napkin
to his lips. The fairy god sisters' tiaras twinkled.
"Want to go see a movie?" I said.
We went to several movies over the next
two weeks. We also went to poetry slams and a play Downtown
places I'd never thought of going. And what was really refreshing
was that Louis didn't seem to mind when we'd receive the occasional
"look at the Amazon with the five foot three guy" stare. "They're
just jealous," Louis would tell me. Now I know what those people
must have been thinking. They must have been wrestling with a visual,
right? Me and Louis, in, you know, bed? I'm all legs and my huge
feet are dangling from the shin down off the edge of the mattress,
and lucky Louis is lost somewhere under the covers. The truth is
I hadn't slept with him -- yet. Not that I didn't want to sleep
with him. I did. In fact, I had wondered when or if Louis and I
would get past the kiss, I'll-call-you-tomorrow-OK-I'll-be-waiting
stage. I knew he liked me, but did he want to make love to me? I
decided to take the initiative. I invited him over to my tiny, studio
apartment for a very large dinner.
That day, after work, I took my bus pass
out of my backpack and went to where the beautiful people shop;
Neiman Marcus. I didn't even bother to change out of my vet tech
scrubs. I was covered with dog hair, but I didn't care. I rode up
that escalator to the lingerie department and blew my paycheck on
a black, scalloped-lace cami and tap pants combo and a set of 300
count Egyptian cotton soothing and durable sheets.
Then I thought, what about protection? No sense hoping Louis would
have a condom in his wallet. I went to Long's Drugs, bought the
condoms, and as soon as I stepped out of the automatic doors, my
sandals slipped off my feet. The stitching on the straps had ripped.
What could I do? I walked barefoot from Long's Drugs clear across
to the other side of Ala Moana Shopping Center, and I stepped in
There was Louis, looking so un-Al Bundy
in his rust colored dress shirt with the cuffs rolled up to the
middle of his forearms. He saw me, waved his shoe horn and gave
me that "I wasn't expecting to see you here today" smile until I
saw his eyes fall to my feet.
"Can you help me?" I said, dangling my
"Sure. Have a look around, Cinderella."
What a prince. Problem was, I did look
around, and that's when I realized that the shoe department had
doubled in size. I couldn't make up my mind. It was the perfect
"What would you like to see me wear, Louis?"
I said. I poked my big toe at his Cole Han loafers and winked.
"Whoa," he said. "What size?"
"Twelve," I said. "Triple E."
"Easy. I'll be right back. Have a seat."
I couldn't help myself. As I waited for
Prince Louis to return, I watched women shop for shoes. Some picked
the no-nonsense stuff, the shoe one might wear to, say, walk over
coals. Then there were the other women, like the Japanese tourist
girl trying on a pair of the pointiest pointed toe, ankle high,
black leather boots with a stiletto heel. No doubt about it; size
5. She paraded back and forth in front of a mirror, turned around,
and studied the view of her backside. I wished I looked like that
in a skirt that was about the width of a dish towel. Her friend,
of equal cuteness and tiny-ness, teetered up to the same mirror
wearing charcoal alligator skin pumps with heels that sang ashes,
ashes, we all fall down. I was surrounded by fabulous looking, high
maintenance, gorgeous, women testing the limitations of shoes. Louis,
I had realized, saw this everyday. How could I possibly compete?
I placed my Neiman Marcus shopping bag in front of my bare feet,
brushed the dog hair off my scrubs, and slouched in my chair.
Louis finally showed up holding one box.
He got down on one knee one knee! Could it be a sign? --and
lifted the shoe box lid.
"I thought of you when this came in this
morning," he said. He lifted the tissue and pulled out the homeliest
shoe I had ever seen.
"Oh," I said. "It's so --white."
"It's perfect for you. Plain, but trendy.
Sensible heel, generous width." He seemed so pleased with himself.
The shoes looked like blocks of cement on Michelin treads. Door-to-door
traveling missionary at the Indy 500 shoes. Anti-sex shoes.
"Louis? You thought of me when you saw
"It's you all over Gina." He patted his
left thigh. "Come on. Give me your right foot."
I grabbed my Neiman Marcus package and
my backpack, stood up, and walked towards a display where the Japanese
tourist girl had been pawing over a pair of orange ankle strap slides.
I picked up the green apple version, turned it over to check the
price. The name of the style? Diminutive French Kiss. "How about
this?" I asked Louis. "Have you got this in my size?"
"You're feet would hate those shoes, and
they don't exactly go with dog hair." He grinned. I didn't.
The Japanese tourist girl teetered past
me like a little doe with high-heeled hooves. I dragged my Neiman
Marcus bag and my backpack circling every display table as if I
were hunting for ammo. Louis followed me and then tugged at my elbow.
"Did I say something wrong?" he said.
I looked down at him. "I can't believe
you thought of me when you saw those," I pointed at that stupid
box he had brought to me, "those, those clodhoppers! Does that shoe
make you think of my taste? My needs?"
I snatched up a pair of slippers with
silk rosettes on the thong, threw one on the floor and shoved my
foot in it. Shit. It didn't fit.
"Gina, sometimes you find something you
like, but in the end you'll take them home, and they won't fit you
right, you know? Shoes are weird like that. I was just making a
"Bigfoot wouldn't get caught dead in those
shoes," I spat. "My feet are at the end of my legs. I can't hide
them, unlike the bald spot on the top of your head."
Louis's face went from perplexed to offended.
He swiped his hair back. He re-cuffed his sleeves. He walked calmly
back to the stupid shoe box, knelt down, pushed the white shoe beneath
the tissue and put the lid on the box. He was about to go to the
stock room, but he halted in front of me, tilted his head back and
looked me straight in the eye.
"For your information," he said. "Bigfoot
is dead. It was a hoax. Totally bogus. If you bothered to read the
paper, you'd know that." With the shoe box under one arm, Louis
disappeared in to the stockroom.
If I had bothered to read the paper? The
nerve. I walked out of Macy's and marched back to Neiman Marcus,
my naked soles tough as Nubuck. I returned the sheets, but kept
the black lace cami and tap pants. I mean, what the hell? I deserved
overpriced underwear. And then I went straight to the shoe department
where I saw them poised on an acrylic pedestal. Plum colored Sergio
Rossi slides with ankle straps, side bows, and kitten heels. Purrrrr.
I picked one up.
"Size twelve," I told the shoe salesman.
His eyes fell to my feet. "Will we be
needing nylons today?" he said.
"Just bring me the damn shoes."
He did, and I forced my feet in to each
shoes' throat, stood up and wobbled past a mirror. My knees wanted
to stay bent, so I made a conscious effort to straighten them with
each step until my hips loosened in to a sway. "I'll take them,"
I said. "And I'd like to wear them now."
I sauntered up to the cashier's counter
and gave the cashier my debit card. She swiped it, and the register
chugged out a charge slip for $164.86. I didn't blink. I coughed.
And then I signed the charge slip.
"I just love those shoes," the cashier
said. She read my debit card one last time and then slid it between
her fingers as if she were passing me a cigarette.
"Thank you, Genevieve." I was about to
tell her that my friends call me Gina, but she held out a lid and
an empty Sergio Rossi shoe box.
"Want to pass me the shoes you were wearing?"
Hadn't she seen me walk in? "No," I said.
"Just give me the box."
"No problem, Genevieve. I'll give you
a large bag. In case you want to do more shopping." She slid the
empty shoe box in to a large glossy beige shopping bag and then
stepped out from behind the counter. She placed the bag's braided
paper handles in my hand. The bag was as long as my thigh. There
was no way that bag would fit between my knees and the seat in front
of me on the bus.
"You enjoy those shoes, Genevieve," the
cashier said. "Have a nice evening." Nice evening?
"Thanks," I said. I left the shoe department
cramping my toes so the kitten heels wouldn't clop clop clop on
the glossy white floor. The empty shoe box weighed close to nothing
in my shopping bag. At least I didn't have to lug the shopping bag
through a supermarket. I didn't have to haul grocery sacks to the
back of the bus. I didn't have to toss the orange almond salad and
stuff wild rice and raisins in to the Cornish hens. I didn't have
to rip off the price tags from my cami and tap pants set. I didn't
have to do a damn thing. I sat in my cavern of a studio apartment,
turned on the television, cracked open a beer, and wandered from
channel, after channel, after channel searching for something remotely