Saturday, November 19, 2005

Blue Suede Shoes (short story)

She bent down and wiped her hands. And stared long and hard at them. They had been dulled, ironically by disuse, and were slightly frayed along the edges now, but in perfect condition otherwise. That deep shade of turquoise blue remained still, as mesmerizing as it was years ago.

Mesmerized. Yes, that’s what she’d been when she’d first set her eyes upon them. That was when she was seven. She’d stand, face pressed, nose squashed, against the glass pane and stare at the shoes for hours everyday, while her breath turned to mist on the window pane in front of her.
This Sunday, the icicle she held dripped and melted away in the October sun, but she was oblivious to that. And so, while the other kids returned home after finishing their Sunday icicles, she lingered on. At the shop which had those soft, blue, flat, suede shoes. Prince Shooz, the signboard said.
And she’d wonder among many things, how much they cost, whether Aai would buy them for her if she pleaded hard enough, and why they spelt ‘shoes’ that way.

“Maybe you’d like to take a look at them …?”
She swung around, startled, and recognised the man from the counter. She hadn’t noticed as he opened the door noiselessly, and slipped up behind her. Middle aged, of medium height, with slick oil soaked hair parted sharply in the middle that looked like it was pasted to his scalp. He wore a dull, grimy shirt that had once, probably, been white, over worn out jeans, and she could see curly tufts of hair peeping out from his chest where the neckline of his shirt began. She wondered why he spoke through his nose; reminded her of the newspaper boy, when he tried mimicking Donald Duck.
“No, I have to be home…” she began ; Aai would be furious if she knew I’ve been talking to strangers, Maya reminded herself.
“Only for a minute”, he continued… “wouldn’t you like to try them on? They’re just the right size for you too.”
The longer she gazed at them, the louder they beckoned her inside.

The store was empty at this time; it was a typical lazy Sunday afternoon. She entered, and stood infront of the counter while he removed the shoes from the display window. She stared at the unattended tumbler of cold tea that stood on the counter top and watched the thin web-like film of brown coloured cream that had covered the surface.
“Here, come and sit with me…” he motioned to where he was sat on the floor behind the counter, shoes in his lap.
And she followed, behind the counter, to where he sat.

Maya awoke from her reverie to the wails of a hungry baby. Sara was three months old now, and growing more beautiful by the day. Almost as beautiful, Ravi would say, as her mother. And Maya would smile.

She put the shoes aside; Sara needed to be fed.
Ravi walked in as she was putting them away. “Sweetie, dyou remember where you’d kept the Olive Oil after last week’s dinner? It’s not on the second shelf anymore.”

Sunday afternoon was the one time of the week she was treated to her husband’s culinary skills, far superior, she admitted wistfully, than hers. For Ravi, Cooking was an Art, his ultimate Stress Buster. Russian Salad, her favourite, featured on today’s menu.

“I think we’ve run out of it… check the bottom shelf. Gimme a sec, lemme get Sara”

She cooed softly as she picked up the crying baby and put it to her breast. The cries subsided almost instantly, turning to content, intermittant murmuring as warm nourishment flowed into the baby’s mouth, and down her throat, flooding her senses.
The gentle pressure of the infant’s mouth against her breast began to dull Maya’s senses and bring on drowsiness…

“Surprise!!” Aai yelled, as Maya ripped off the wrapper and lifted the lid off the box to pull out a pair of shiny new deep blue suede shoes. “Happy Birthday, my pudding, I know you’ve had your eyes on these forever. Dyou like them?”
She looked up at her mother to answer, but felt a nausea sweep over her. She retched, and vomitted, finally, all over her birthday present.

“They’re beautiful. How old were you when you got them?” Ravi was at the door, holding the shoes in his hands.


“You’ve had them for ages now. They must mean a lot to you."

"Well,” he continued as he sat down on the bed beside her, “we’ll do them up a bit, and when Sara’s old enough, she can wear them, what dyu think?”

She put the baby down abruptly, and looked up at him, eyes ablaze with the memory of a thousand, perhaps more, nightmares, all jostling for space within the frustrating confines of her mind.

“Never”, she said, in a voice she didn’t remember, “will any child of mine have anything to do with those shoes”

And with that, she turned her back on the wailing baby and walked out of the room.