The Brown Slingback Heels

Tossing another abandoned sweater onto a pile nearly as tall as my desk, I admired my new-found ability to just let go of things. I’m bad about spring cleaning, mainly because I’m a little messy by heart and in my space space, and for my knack of attaching sentimental value to every knick-knack I own.

But this year is different — I couldn’t wait to clean out my suitcases and closet to switch from those bitter winter days to the bright summery ones, so I spent Saturday night in doing just that. With a race Sunday at 8:30 a.m., I gave myself permission to be boring and have a date with Mr.Windex and his friend the handsome broom instead of eyeing the crowd downtown.

As I went through my red suitcases — the ones that have been with me from day one in NYC — I found dresses I haven’t worn since I moved, bags so tattered they barely had straps and shoes without heels at all. Thinking of all the things I could buy if I just had more space (and um, money), I folded up what I didn’t want and hung up what I did, trying hard not to imagine dream scenarios in dream outfits during the process.

But then, in the middle of my clean up, in the middle of N’Sync playing on my 90s pop hits Pandora radio station (not ashamed), I came across those heels.

The heels that I didn’t wear at all last year since I couldn’t: the clasp is broken, the heel is unsteady and the shoe, admittedly highly uncomfortable. The heels that I once considered my own version of Cinderella slippers, bringing a love affair into my life with one simple stumble. The shoes that I thought I would keep no matter what, since they were the reason I met Mr. Possibility in the first place.

Right before I made the leap to Manhattan, I exchanged an incredibly ugly necklace (from yes, an ex) in for some cold hard store credit. Since the place doesn’t exist above the Mason-Dixon, I had to use it before my flight. Shopping around the aisles of things I didn’t want, I found one thing that I did: a brown pair of four-inch Jessica Simpson slingbacks that made my legs look killer. I instantly fell in love and easily used that gift card for them, determined to stomp the sparkly pavements, making my impression.

I was right– they eventually would make quite the first impression eight months later on that bus where I tripped in them, right in front of Mr. Unavailable, who as we all know, would ultimately become the impossible Mr. Possibility.

I walked those heels to death with any opportunity to any event or any short skirt that begged attention. Mr. P would comment on them before we went out: “Are those the shoes? Are you going to be able to stand?” He would tease me and I would promise to wear them with grace, and threaten to wear them on our wedding day, where I’d purposefully fall at the alter, making a scene just for us.

I don’t remember packing them up and tucking them away under my bed last fall — there is never enough room in any NYC closet for more than one season. But I did, even though they are entirely unwearable. Maybe then I still held onto the hope that they’d mean something more to me than Mr. P or that we would eventually get back together and I’d be sad if I didn’t have them.

But looking at them on Saturday night, thinking about the memories that come with them, that follow my step, I didn’t feel like I needed them anymore. Nothing left to hang onto, nothing more I wanted with them. Just a pair of shoes that are taking up highly-valued space in a closet that needs to be decluttered. The cost of fixing them would outweigh what they are worth, and the cost of holding onto what they represent, even more emotionally expensive.

And so, away they went to charity. To a place where maybe, someone else will find some piece of something in them, just like I did.

The truth is, they never really gave me a solid footing here. There were always a little too high to walk up and down subway (or apparently, bus) steps, and too skinny to support constant commuting. Perhaps I wasn’t confident enough to own them in the way that a woman who knows herself can — marching along without thinking, without worrying about that crease in the road ahead or the water puddle you see on a clear day. Those shoes didn’t give me my grounding here, and as much as I like to give him credit, Mr. Possibility didn’t either. He helped guide me for a while by showing me the city I love and giving me a glimpse into the love I dream of — but just like those slingbacks that playfully taunted our relationship, something was never quite right. Never quite as strong as I’d like. Never quite as stable as I needed. The support just wasn’t quite there.

The next day post-race, I stopped by TJ Maxx to pick up some running shorts and somehow found myself in the shoe aisle, eyeing a new pair of my beloved brown slingbacks. But unlike the other, these have a thicker heel. They’re a little lower, and yes more practical. They fit me better and can endure the two-avenue walk from the train to my job — no change of flats required. I don’t trip over my own feet and I can move to my own beat, without worrying about what’s ahead or who I’ll come across.

And I like them better. The next time I sway and bend, it won’t be because of the heels, it’ll be because I’m finally sturdy enough to let myself fall.

It’s the Little Things

My apartment smells like cardboard and glass cleaner. I’ve been sneezing for the last twenty minutes and if I squint my eyes and look intently, I think I can see my floor. I can’t tell if my throw-away pile or my climbing mound of packed boxes is higher, and I really never noticed how white my walls were until right about now, sitting and wondering if this room was always this big, or if it somehow grew in the last few hours.

I’m moving to a different part of New York and I couldn’t be less prepared. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve moved in my life and unlike other things, it never gets easier. In fact, I’d like to think it gets harder because I continuously accumulate more and more stuff. But like an evening following a stressful day and cooking in a tiny kitchen – I prefer to pack alone.

So, with a discovered airplane bottle of Grey Goose in the back of my fridge and orange juice, a green masque from the dead sea (thanks Mr. P), and the Best of the 80’s with some Sean Kingston and Adele mixed in (no judging of my musical eclecticness) – I started pulling apart and piecing together the contents of my tiny studio.

Admittedly, I’ve only given my apartment a thorough and heavy-duty cleaning once or twice in the entire time I’ve lived here. As my life become increasingly fuller and I found myself distracted from my address, I let things sit around and I forgot my in-the-moment organizing habits. I collect antique cigar boxes for decoration and occasionally for storage, and such a collection usually leads to random discoveries as well as many searches that leave me empty-handed. In a rush and without a conscious thought, I’ve tucked away things for safe-keeping and then kept myself away from them for months.

But maybe that’s the fun with boxes anyways, you open them and never know quite what you’ll find. Luckily for me, the surprise has never been a cockroach in an empty wooden container, but some findings I found yesterday were almost as scary.

Or at least, when I first saw them, I thought they’d be.

Unknowingly, we all attach emotion and sentiments to objects. It is why we started having “ex-boxes” in high school, to keep us from lingering over a lost love. Or the reason why as children, we grow attached to a blanket, a teddy bear, or a doll and carry it around to give us the comfort a sippie cup or bottle simply can’t. It’s why the engagement ring is something so many lust after – the symbolic meaning that you’re taken, that someone wants to love you forever, that someone gave you such an expensive, beautiful, or historical thing that tells the world you’re to-be-wed.

But as time passes, our attachment to things changes. Or maybe, it just lessens.

As I was going through my jewelry, safely placing in padded pouches the ones that meant the most to me, I came across a necklace Mr. Faithful gave me, nearly a decade ago. Still in good condition and still the same mini spec of a diamond it was then, it glistened in the light of my lamp and I just smiled. When we first broke up, I couldn’t look at it,  but by the time college was over, I found myself wearing it without even thinking of him. When I packed up my pajamas, I came across a pair I threw on the night my mother and I had to rush my father to the hospital when he was ill. After a night from hell, spent worrying and pacing, and attempting to get some sleep on uncomfortable waiting room chairs, I almost threw away the cotton pants out of disdain. Once my dad recovered and returned to the same adoring man I always knew, the pants stopped being so difficult to wear, and eventually, I grew quite fond of them and even took them with me to New York.

I stumbled across all sorts of things, frames that have seen a cascade of photos, from boyfriends and friends to family and pets, year after year as new friends, men, or experiences changed. Outfits I bought for a specific purpose, ones I bought with the intent to be ripped off of me, sweaters I bought for the first day of school that somehow still fit, and jeans that will no longer fit, no matter how much weight I lose or miles I run.

I came across dresses I wore frequently when I very first moved, but now can’t bear the thought of wearing in public, much less in Manhattan. Books that I read while riding the subway to my internship or laying in the Great Lawn in Central Park or the quad at my college. Notebooks from interviews I can barely remember conducting and quotes from sources I can’t picture in my head anymore. Shoes with a half-way broken heel I meant to get fixed and a skirt I loved that ripped at the seam and I swore I would learn to sew for the simple fact I badly needed to wear the skirt again (that’s still on the bucket list of skills to master). Notes from Mr. Idea I saved because they meant something to me, the pennies I found in my window seal of this apartment, and to-do lists I never finished.

All of these things, in significant or insignificant ways, meant something to me at one point. Some words in books I read or places I went while wearing specific shoes, or people I met while sporting a tight number – changed my life. But it wasn’t the book or the shoes or the dress that made an impact, those are just reminders of the experience. And while those memories stay with us, the emotion we attach to objects that really didn’t matter too much to begin with, fade away. We pack them up in boxes to donate or to sell. We decide to give some things a second chance and we forget how good we looked in shorts and tights. We stop seeing items as things that hold meaning and see them for what they are: just things.

And like us, they will go on to someone else. Someone who picks it up at the library or bookstore when we donate books, or someone at a consignment shop who sees potential in an old scarf we couldn’t see. Not just stuff, either, transforms in the hands for a new person – my apartment will gain a different inhabitant in a few weeks. They will make this space their own, they will bring their own meaningful things, and set up shop differently than I did, and in a manner diverse from the dozen or more people who have called this place their home before me. In a brownstone that’s nearly 100 years old, there is no telling how many residents have made a home in the very place I’m sitting as I type this blog, in 2011 at an antique desk, someone else has sat, too.

But things don’t need emotion, really. Nor do apartments. They just need people to use them, to fill them up with life, to give them a purpose, and then to let them go. Onto to the next person or the next use or maybe put an end to their functionality. Even then, trash often turns into Earth that molds into something new decades later – but I digress.

The point is, the cycle continues. People come and go, and so do things – but won’t people always continue to collect things? Collect memories attached to those things? And then let them go as easily as they came? Of course. It is the little things that matter, but keep in mind, the little things will always change.