Size 7

I’m currently working on some longer writing projects for the summer and have hit something of a block when it comes to writing new and timely pieces for DUFL. Here’s a story I wrote four years ago. I was “trying something.” I don’t know if it “worked.”

***

Size 7

Briarwood Mall, Thursday afternoon in springtime. Not too busy, mostly high school girls shopping with their daddies’ credit cards and photogenic moms nibbling cinnamon rolls by the fountain, strollers in tow. A blinking cursor on a blank Word document awaits me back on campus, but Steve says he needs new shoes.

“I need new shoes,” he’s saying. “So I wanna get these black leather boots with buckles on the sides” I can’t see his eyes behind his sunglasses.

“Sounds kinky,” I say. “S&M party coming up? One of your business school events?”

“You’re hilarious, you know that?”

“Settle down, tiger. Let’s make this quick. I have a paper due tomorrow.”

“Hey, you didn’t have to come. There’s this shoe store at the end of the mall I want to hit up.”

I step aside and sweep my arm. “Lead the way, Madame.”

“Dude, don’t call me Madame.” Steve punches me on the shoulder, and it stings for several seconds, but I don’t mind.

We meander around indoor plants across marble tiles. A man in a silk tie yells at his wife through his BlackBerry. A cooing lady tries in vain to shush her squalling infant. A pimple-faced boy soft-serves ice cream to two skinny girls in flip flops. At a kiosk selling cell phone accessories, I look for a cover for my phone, but the nebbish-looking guy tells me that they don’t have my model. He snaps his gum and tries to sell me a cover for a different phone, promising it will fit. I leave and find Steve ogling the Victoria’s Secret storefront.

“Classy,” I say with a hint of annoyance. “Shoulda brought your camera. God, I can’t wait for this semester to be over.”

“No kidding. Accounting is going to wreck my GPA. The professor’s a total douche-bag. Maybe I should switch to humanities. Lots of girls, right?”

I roll my eyes. “Girls, shmirls.”

“What about that one chick I saw you getting coffee with?”

“Oh, Lena? She’s in my Asian studies class. She’s not my type,” I say quickly. “She’s kinda high maintenance. Rich girl from New York. You wouldn’t like her.”

“Yeah, plus I don’t do Chinese girls.”

“Oh, that’s right. Too good to date your own kind, right?”

“Damn straight. Except for your mom or sister. They’re babes.”

“Ha. Funny. What are we, still in junior high? How about you? Date-rape anyone lately?”

“You’re hilarious.” Steve stops to tie his shoes. When he gets up he’s got a cocky grin on his face. “Actually, I was out last weekend, met this girl who’s pretty hot.”

“Yeah? Where? Let me guess. Rick’s.”

“It was Rick’s.”

“God, I hate that place. Fratty as hell.”

“Whatever, you’ve never been in that place.”

“I went once.”

“Just once?”

“Once was enough.”

“Anyway, I was at Rick’s, and I meet this girl.”

“Lemme guess. Blonde?”

Steve shakes his head. “Redhead.”

“Ooh. Did you go home with her?”

Steve shakes his head.

I put my hand over my mouth in mock amazement. “I’m shocked.”

Steve looks annoyed. “Listen, one of her friends got trashed and she had to take her home, okay? Don’t worry, I got her number.”

“You call her yet?”

“Did I call her yet? Of course not.”

“If you’re so into this girl, why haven’t you called her?”

“Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay, whatever.”

“Damn straight.” Steve stops in front of a shiny storefront. He runs a hand through his spiky black hair. “Okay, here’s the store. How do I look?”

“What do you mean how do you look?”

The store’s all white lights and modern interior design and clean lines. Leather shoes and boots and sandals of different styles line the walls. Euro pop plays over the speakers. There’s a pretty brunette working the register. A girl with auburn hair down to her shoulders comes up to us. She’s got a chest fighting her black top and legs down to the floor. I glance toward Steve, eyebrow raised. He doesn’t look back, but he’s trying to hide a grin. He’s taken off his sunglasses.

“Hi!” the ginger smiles. “Hey, how’s it going?”

Steve nods in a very affected manner, “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“Yeah, just Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I don’t have class.”

“Wow, what are the chances?” He clears his throat in a very unnatural way. “So I had a great time last weekend.”

“Yeah, definitely. Sorry about Carol. So can I help you guys find anything today?”

“Actually you can,” Steve says. “I’m looking for some new kicks.”

“Not sure we’re in the right place for that,” I say. Steve shoots me a look that I ignore.

“Can I try these here in like a size 9?” Steve holds out his coveted pair of black ankle boots with the buckle.

“Sure, let me check in the back.” She turns toward me. “Do you need help finding anything?”

“Me? Just browsing,” I say. I grab the nearest shoe.

“Oh, those are for women. Men’s boots are over there.”

I look at the knee-high heel in my hand. “Oh, right. No, It’s cool. I go to these wild S&M parties every few weeks. These are perfect, actually. I’ll take them.”

She laughs then turns back to Steve. “I’ll be right back with your shoes.” She disappears through the back.

I park myself on a wooden bench and stare at my docksiders in the foot mirror. The stitching is frayed, and the heel is pulling off the left shoe.

The girl comes back with Steve’s shoes and helps him try them on. “They look great! How do they fit?”

“I like them.” He frowns. “You know, They’re a little big though. Can I maybe try a size 8? Those should be good.”

“Sure thing.”

A few minutes later she’s back with a new box. “How do those feel?”

Steve paces around the store. He checks himself out in a full-length mirror and flexes his pecs, not as discreetly as he thinks. “They’re still a tiny bit loose, near the toes. Maybe a size 7?”

“No prob. I’ll be right back.”

She comes back one more time with another box and hands them to Steve.

“These are a size 7?”

She nodded. Steve steps into them and walks around in them. When he turns back toward us he has a sheepish grin.

“Sorry, do you maybe have a size 6.5?”

The girl blushes. “Sorry, we don’t carry any sizes smaller than 7.”

Steve scratches his head and squeezes out a grin, his cheeks flushed. “Geez, I don’t know what’s going on today. My feet normally aren’t this small.” I snort.

The salesgirl smiles. “It’s no big deal. Maybe you can try something else?”

I snicker. “Do you have a kids shoes section?”

“No, I’m good,” says Steve. “Thanks.”

“No problem, thanks for stopping by. Good seeing you again.”

“Sure, I’ll, uh, give you a call soon.”

“Okay, sounds good.”

I hurry to catch up with Steve. He shoves his hands in his jeans and doesn’t look at me. An over-tanned lady walks past us and asks the salesgirl about the knee-high heels.

I wait until I’m back in the car–seatbelt fastened–before I say anything to Steve. “Really? ‘My feet normally aren’t this small?'”

He glares at me before starting the engine. I snicker and put my hand on his shoulder. He shakes it off, violently, and says, in a voice a little too loud, “Get your hand off me, you fag,” and my ears turn crimson.

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