Those shoes

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_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

The woman who washed my hair before a cut the other day made mention of my shoes as I submitted my head for processing.

These old, black Doc Martens carried me through hundreds of bar shots, down countless miles of road and sidewalk. A deep scar runs across the left one, a memento of a barroom scrape that in a lesser boot would have cost me my toes. The soles are holding up; the laces are the originals; and the yellow stitching still stands out.

“These boots are probably older than you are,” I joked. “I got ’em in 1995.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “I was two.”

For a domesticated man like me, a moment like this comes around maybe once every 10 years.

Well, then.

I remember quite clearly the day I got them, in a shop on Canal Street after a particularly lucrative Mardi Gras season. I spent a lot of time on my feet back then, and after the rigors of the Carnival season had worn out yet another pair of cheap boots, I wanted to buy something substantial.

I talked myself out of buying them a few times before finally pulling the trigger. They were $120, probably the most expensive item of clothing I had ever bought at the time, and I thought the price exorbitant — the equivalent of at least two good bar tabs or a pretty good night at the casino.

The boots are one of the few things I’ve ever bought with Mardi Gras money that I still possess.

That strikes me as ironic tonight, as I sit alone in my house, filled with things gathered long after these boots began to soften.

The kids are off at camp and sleepovers. My wife is out of town. Besides the three cats and the bearded dragon inside a tank in my daughter’s room, I am absolutely and completely alone.

For a domesticated man like me, a moment like this comes around maybe once every 10 years.

And it’s telling that the most appealing thing about it tonight is that I can settle in at the kitchen table and get a bunch of work done.

A lot has happened in the years since I bought those old, black boots. And it’s not inappropriate to consider these things as I sit alone in my house while the hour grows late.

Now, as then, I’m wearing the boots. But it might be getting time to loosen up the laces, slip them off and see what’s on TV.

They’ve seen enough action for one day.

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