The Boy Who Walked Backwards

The Boy Who Walked Backwards

For as long as he could remember, he wanted to make shoes. Margins of his most-loved childhood books were filled with well-intention-ed and purposeful drawings, and the cover corners were inked in with spins and swirls of shoe prints. Left alone with school work, he copied the lines and patterns of insteps and ankles instead, ever in awe of the heel toe pivot bend of a shoe well-worn, and, hidden in a cubby behind his bed he kept mate(less) shoes he found -- mostly lonely toddler Velcro specials, an occasional sports lace-up, and even one boot he found beside a park bench. Scattered within were the colored pens he used to draw on the their sides, magically transforming shoe to art, and sole into a fiesta of whimsical color.

He loved shoes, but living with this love was too, a soft melancholy. If you asked, he would tell you that his feet were wide, hard to match, and grew so fast that keeping him in shoes that cradled his feet was quite a challenge. He’d tell you of the look of love dressed in anger on his mother’s face when she learned he ruined yet another pair with a barrage of scuffs, tiny tears, and experiments. Or, of feeling his belly unfurl at the site of an almost new pair awaiting him. But most times, his heels hung exposed, his toes pressed, overlapped and aching within for freedom. And sometimes his arches stung and numbed from laces pulled tight to stay his feet from wading inside a too large shoe. And all the time, with his creative cut-outs, fabric additions, and fresh layers of ink he pretended his feet were covered in royalty. And perhaps it was the triumphant soundtrack of kings and queens he heard with every step that drowned out the laughter guaranteed to erupt at the sight of his fantastic footwear.

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