When my wife Jina and I went into a shoe store on a mission to buy me a comfortable pair of footwear–her idea, not mine–despite my needing to go to the bathroom (a priority that was not as urgent as addressing my feet’s desires, in her ever-so-empathetic view), I tried on several pairs, trying to remember my exact shoe size.
The young woman who took care of us had dyed her hair purple and wore it in a ponytail. She also had a cold and I offered her a Mandarin orange since I was all out of cough drops. One thing I hate about trying on shoes is that sometimes it’s hard to tell how comfortable they are or how well they fit until after you’ve been wearing them for at least twenty-four hours, and by then it’s too late to return them.
Jina handed me a pair of fluorescent sneakers to try on. They fit okay, but the bunion, tumor, or whatever the hell it is protruding from the side of my left foot is a tender little pain alarm that’s always itching to go off. I wanted to give it plenty of room. The next pair she handed me, purple mesh jobbies, fit better and were more comfortable.
“These are good,” I said.
“We can’t buy them,” she announced.
“They’re too expensive.”
Then why the hell did you tell me to try them on? Learning how to complain in silence is the key to a (relatively) peaceful marriage. Not that it’s always possible to censor yourself with such precision and persistence.
She had me try on one more pair, which were less comfortable.
“Why don’t you buy those?” she said.
I felt pressured, but I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake I’d already made twice before, with her help (the last two were pairs of shoes she’d bought for me online; luckily I was able to sell the first pair to a former colleague; the second I still wear today, much to the chagrin of my left foot).
Since this incident happened over a week ago, I’m not sure about the exact details. Suffice it to say that the store clerks had prepared a box of shoes for me–not the ones that I wanted–but I balked at the last minute, and Jina stormed out of the store ahead of me. I trudged after her, ballooning bladder in tow.
Luckily, she didn’t eviscerate me with her fangs when I got outside. Instead, we retired to another shoe store, a much smaller one a few windows away, entering just as a couple of other customers were leaving.
The manager was a friendly, attractive young woman with long brown hair. She was earthy and big-boned, what you might call a crunchy granola type if stereotypes were any way to describe flesh-and-blood human beings. She did me the service of actually measuring my feet by tracing them with a pencil, and expressed alarm in Korean at the deviation I described above.
Jina always tells me I just need to wash the foot in hot water and massage it regularly. Mind, this is also a woman who believes in faith-healing and avoids doctors as a matter of course. (I’ve had a few bad experiences with doctors too, but when you’re bleeding to death on a busy street, a doctor is, well, just what the doctor ordered.) Her method doesn’t do diddly-squat to reduce the swelling or relieve the pain. One reason the damned thing hurts so much is that it has protruding veins wrapped around it ready to hurt at the slightest movement.
(Having said that, it doesn’t hurt all the time, but the pain never goes away for very long either. Have you ever noticed how pain can move from one part of your body to another? Sometimes it can even happen in several areas all at once in a symphony of agony. I’d like to say it’s character-building, but that would be a lie.)
Incidentally, we were there to buy dress shoes this time, which make more sense anyway as my knees will not allow me to run anymore, unless I’m trying to catch the bus. Probably one reason they’re so messed up is that I never wear sneakers anymore. Duh and d’oh!
Anyway, the manager conducted the transaction with the utmost professionalism. The plan was to custom-design a pair of shoes; the catch was they’d cost just under two hundred bucks. But since you get what you pay for, I didn’t mind. This was also nearly twice as much as the running shoes Jina refused to buy for me–with my money–would have cost.
Alas, rationality is not a human trait.
I was finally able to use the bathroom, which the manager led me to. When I emerged, Jina was talking to a young woman who’d come in and was trying on various pairs of pumps and platform shoes, including one particularly gaudy, glittering pair. But she seemed happy with them and who was I to give unsolicited fashion advice to a stranger?
We struck up a conversation and it turned out she was a singer. She gave Jina and me a promotional C. D. and signed it for us. Then she walked with us part of the way home. We parted ways at the subway station. By then she’d linked arms with Jina; their Christian connection enabled them to hit it off instantly.
This was a relief to me, as we need all the friends we can get, and Jina’s friendships tend to have the shelf-life of sushi (you see, nobody–including me–is good enough for her). She’s better than she used to be though, and she’s also awfully hard on herself, which might be why she’s so often such a tough task-master with me too.
We’re still waiting on the shoes, but we did have a nice get-together with our new friend last weekend, and are hoping to be able to hear her sing live one of these days. She has a beautiful voice and could well hit the big time eventually. I just hope she doesn’t wind up promoting everything under the Korean sun, like Psy, whose autobiography could be called The Triumph of the Shill.