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Size 12EEE

Lisa Linn Kanae

Big Foot

There are too many styles to choose from now --so much more of the evening straps, Downtown pumps, ballerina flats, porno star open toed vinyl, leopard print house flops, goth tire rubber, whip me leather boots, surfer-girl thongs, dress sneakers (dress sneakers!?), and those sassy slings with the kitten heel that come in pinball machine colors--sweet, speedy and bright. Shoes you can't wear to run after a bus.

The Liberty House shoe department just isn't the same. I know. I know. I read the Honolulu Star Bulletin; Macy's bought out Liberty House. Yes, I realize the salesmen still wear handsome ties and dress shirts, and they still try nonchalantly to make eye contact with you while they cup their shoe horns, but still, it just isn't the same. I still buy those sandals though, the burly ones that make me look like the Romans have just served me to the lions. I can walk for hours, run if I have to, and if I choose the right style, my little toe shouldn't cry let me back in. I wait for the newspaper ads with the cut-out coupons so I can buy three pairs at a time — black, brown and taupe. No, not gray or beige. Taupe. Like fawns or mushrooms. Wilder beast colors. OK. If you insist on killing my joy --neutral colors. White? Oh, I'd never wear white on these feet. Look at them! No, don't look at them. Don't give me that telepathic holy shit, skateboards look that shoe salesmen give me whenever I place my bare foot on the metal shoe size indicator. No. I don't hate shoe salesmen. They're just as misunderstood as, say, six foot four women with feet to match. I can safely say that all shoe salesmen are not like Al Bundy. Because I dated a shoe salesman. I met him at a vegetarian cooking class.

There I was reading the nutritional value label on a package of soy grits, and he walks in to class right in the middle of some mystery meat joke the nice Vegetarian Society lady had been telling. Everyone, about twelve people, laughed, but I missed the punch line. I was distracted. Late Guy sat next to me, and he smelled of citrus, cedar, and leather.

"Did I miss anything important?" he said.

1) He was late. 2) He missed the liliko`i cream cheese appetizers, and 3) he asked me a really lame question during the Vegetarian Society lady's speech on compassion for our furry friends. He had nice hair, though. Black, tussled, pillow hair. I ignored him, but I could feel him staring at my package of grits.

"They give that to everybody?" he said. I nodded.

"What is that stuff?"

He looked so sexy in that white undershirt he was wearing. Nice chest.

"Soy pecs," I said. I am such an idiot.

"Excuse me?"

"Soy. Grits!" I whispered. "Grits! As in TVP — Texturized vegetable protein. Free sample. Here it's yours." I pushed the lumpy package into his hand.

"No, you keep it," he said.

"Take it," I said. "I insist."

The Vegetarian Society lady asked everyone to join her at the butcher block island to slice eggplants, so late guy stood up. And then I stood up. My boobs met Late Guy's eyebrows; I glanced down and saw a bald spot like an eye staring back at me on top of his head. He bent his neck back to look up and then his face, those eyes, looked up at my face. He didn't blink. Almost whistled, but he coughed instead. I'm used to it. Me and Bigfoot, you know, a.k.a. Abominable Snowman, Yeti, Sasquatch, we have this in common; men generally look at us in disbelief.

We ended up standing next to one another at the butcher block, our recipe handouts in front us. We soaked our soy grits in a bowl of warm water. He sliced his eggplant. I sliced mine. I arranged my slices in a dessert sized casserole dish. He did the same.

"You play volleyball, right?" he said.

Here it comes. "No. And I don't play basketball."

"You're a swimmer, then?" he said. "Water polo?"

"Eight years old. Near drowning experience. Don't like the water."

"Oh," he said. "Sorry. For a local girl, you're just so, you know. How tall are you?"

I looked down my nose at him. "Tall enough."

He swiped his bald spot with this hand and laughed. "OK. I deserved that." He had a little bit of stubble around his smile, and he reminded me of Jackie Chan. Boyish with man shoulders. God, he smelled good.

"I think the TVP is moist enough now," I said.

He slid his hand into the bowl and squeezed the excess water from a clump of soggy soy grits like a sponge. Water flowed over his slender wrist and trickled back in to the bowl. No wedding ring.

"Louis. My name. And you're?"


"You vegetarian?"

I pinched some grits from our bowl and giggled. "Not really."

"Me neither," he whispered. Big Jackie Chan movie star grin Louis layered the soy grits and more eggplant slices in the dish; I did the same. We were each given a saucer of grated mozzarella and Dixie cups of whole wheat breadcrumbs, but Louis insisted on sprinkling the cheese and crumbs on to my casserole for me. A bowl of fresh red pepper sauce — organic, of course-- was passed around the class along with more Dixie cups filled with different spices. Lots of spice. The oven was hot enough by then, and by the time our casserole dishes were empty, and we had wiped our mouths with paper napkins, I had fallen very much in like with "Louis, my name." Not love, but a lot of like.

Now for me, love is a lot like a shoe department. I've got the coupon, and I swear I'm going to stick to shoes -- no lingerie, no purses, no new 3-step skin care regime. All I need are those reliable gladiator sandals. I tell myself, Gina, walk in, buy the shoes, and when you're done, walk out the same door you came in. Don't go near those Chinese Laundry slides with the golf tee heels, and stay away from the escalators. Too dangerous.

After the cooking class, I pulled my bus pass from my backpack. Louis offered me a ride to Kapahulu Avenue. I hesitated at first, but then we ended up at Ono Hawaiian Food. We were starving. We ordered the #7 — the works. And after we unwrapped the ti leaves off of our lau lau, we doused the fatted pork with chili pepper water, and well, there was no holding back, no self-conscious nibbling.

"So what do you do?" he asked.

"Vet technician. That's how I found out about the class. My boss is vegetarian. I mostly groom dogs, but I'm going to apply to a vet school soon. Someday, anyway. That's my dream."

"It's good to dream," he said. "Me? I sell shoes."

I was surprised. I took him for — I don't know, anything but a shoe salesman.

"Shoes huh? Wow. Where? Sport's Locker?"

"Sport's Locker?" He thrust his spoon in to his poi. "No."

"Payless?" I said.

He shook his head.

"Robins?" I said.

He held up a shard of pipikaula, and then ripped smoked beef with his teeth.

"Macy's," he said and he chomped. "Ala Moana Shopping Center." Then he raised his hand for the waitress. He asked for a glass of ice. Not iced water. Just ice. He looked under the table, sat up straight and didn't say word about my feet, didn't even lift an eyebrow. "Comfy shoes," was all he said, and then he poured the entire bottle of chili pepper water in to his glass of ice.

"You aren't going to drink that are you?" I said.

He downed the entire glass as if it were a shot of tequila.

"You should try it," he said. "I'll get another bottle." He was about to wave down the waitress.

"No!" I said.

"Come on, Gina. Live a little. Try it."


"You don't know what you're missing," he said sing-song like clinking his ice cubes.

"Louis," I said. "I bet you sell a lot of shoes."

He laughed. I laughed. And then there was a silence between us, a gap between our hands on the table that was aching to get filled, so what did I do? I stared at the walls surrounding our table, pausing at each framed autographed photo of the celebrities who had at one time or another eaten at Ono Hawaiian Food. Don Ho, Carol Kai, Jack Lord, The Makaha Sons, Bradda Iz, Frank Hewitt, Jesse Takamiyama Kahaulua, Melveen Leed, and a couple of beauty queens like misty fairy god sisters. All of them seemed to be smiling at Louis and me. It was as if Jack and Don might raise their suave eyebrows to the kitchen, and a steel guitar orchestra would come out swaying, and everyone in the restaurant would hop on his or her table hula dancing a choreographed prelude for us, Gina the Yeti vet tech and Louis the good shoe peddler. Who would've thought?

"Can I tell you something, just between you and me?" Louis said. "People tell me all the time, Louis, finish that MBA. Aren't you sick of selling shoes? I like my job, I tell them. Besides, I have time to do stuff — non-credit classes, read, work out… meet someone nice. But do you know what's really cool about my job?" He leaned in closer to me across the table: I did the same. "I get to help someone find the perfect shoe. It's a challenge; I like to see if I can figure out a person. Everybody has different tastes, different needs, but the truth is I can suggest a style or try to impress you with what I know about Italian or Brazilian leather blah, blah, blah, but in the end, you make the choice." He finished off his haupia desert and lifted his napkin to his lips. The fairy god sisters' tiaras twinkled.

"Want to go see a movie?" I said.

We went to several movies over the next two weeks. We also went to poetry slams and a play Downtown— places I'd never thought of going. And what was really refreshing was that Louis didn't seem to mind when we'd receive the occasional "look at the Amazon with the five foot three guy" stare. "They're just jealous," Louis would tell me. Now I know what those people must have been thinking. They must have been wrestling with a visual, right? Me and Louis, in, you know, bed? I'm all legs and my huge feet are dangling from the shin down off the edge of the mattress, and lucky Louis is lost somewhere under the covers. The truth is I hadn't slept with him -- yet. Not that I didn't want to sleep with him. I did. In fact, I had wondered when or if Louis and I would get past the kiss, I'll-call-you-tomorrow-OK-I'll-be-waiting stage. I knew he liked me, but did he want to make love to me? I decided to take the initiative. I invited him over to my tiny, studio apartment for a very large dinner.

That day, after work, I took my bus pass out of my backpack and went to where the beautiful people shop; Neiman Marcus. I didn't even bother to change out of my vet tech scrubs. I was covered with dog hair, but I didn't care. I rode up that escalator to the lingerie department and blew my paycheck on a black, scalloped-lace cami and tap pants combo and a set of 300 count Egyptian cotton —soothing and durable — sheets. Then I thought, what about protection? No sense hoping Louis would have a condom in his wallet. I went to Long's Drugs, bought the condoms, and as soon as I stepped out of the automatic doors, my sandals slipped off my feet. The stitching on the straps had ripped. What could I do? I walked barefoot from Long's Drugs clear across to the other side of Ala Moana Shopping Center, and I stepped in to Macy's.

There was Louis, looking so un-Al Bundy in his rust colored dress shirt with the cuffs rolled up to the middle of his forearms. He saw me, waved his shoe horn and gave me that "I wasn't expecting to see you here today" smile until I saw his eyes fall to my feet.

"Can you help me?" I said, dangling my hopeless sandal.

"Sure. Have a look around, Cinderella."

What a prince. Problem was, I did look around, and that's when I realized that the shoe department had doubled in size. I couldn't make up my mind. It was the perfect opportunity.

"What would you like to see me wear, Louis?" I said. I poked my big toe at his Cole Han loafers and winked.

"Whoa," he said. "What size?"

"Twelve," I said. "Triple E."

"Easy. I'll be right back. Have a seat."

I couldn't help myself. As I waited for Prince Louis to return, I watched women shop for shoes. Some picked the no-nonsense stuff, the shoe one might wear to, say, walk over coals. Then there were the other women, like the Japanese tourist girl trying on a pair of the pointiest pointed toe, ankle high, black leather boots with a stiletto heel. No doubt about it; size 5. She paraded back and forth in front of a mirror, turned around, and studied the view of her backside. I wished I looked like that in a skirt that was about the width of a dish towel. Her friend, of equal cuteness and tiny-ness, teetered up to the same mirror wearing charcoal alligator skin pumps with heels that sang ashes, ashes, we all fall down. I was surrounded by fabulous looking, high maintenance, gorgeous, women testing the limitations of shoes. Louis, I had realized, saw this everyday. How could I possibly compete? I placed my Neiman Marcus shopping bag in front of my bare feet, brushed the dog hair off my scrubs, and slouched in my chair.

Louis finally showed up holding one box. He got down on one knee — one knee! Could it be a sign? --and lifted the shoe box lid.

"I thought of you when this came in this morning," he said. He lifted the tissue and pulled out the homeliest shoe I had ever seen.

"Oh," I said. "It's so --white."

"It's perfect for you. Plain, but trendy. Sensible heel, generous width." He seemed so pleased with himself. The shoes looked like blocks of cement on Michelin treads. Door-to-door traveling missionary at the Indy 500 shoes. Anti-sex shoes.

"Louis? You thought of me when you saw this shoe?"

"It's you all over Gina." He patted his left thigh. "Come on. Give me your right foot."

I grabbed my Neiman Marcus package and my backpack, stood up, and walked towards a display where the Japanese tourist girl had been pawing over a pair of orange ankle strap slides. I picked up the green apple version, turned it over to check the price. The name of the style? Diminutive French Kiss. "How about this?" I asked Louis. "Have you got this in my size?"

"You're feet would hate those shoes, and they don't exactly go with dog hair." He grinned. I didn't.

The Japanese tourist girl teetered past me like a little doe with high-heeled hooves. I dragged my Neiman Marcus bag and my backpack circling every display table as if I were hunting for ammo. Louis followed me and then tugged at my elbow.

"Did I say something wrong?" he said.

I looked down at him. "I can't believe you thought of me when you saw those," I pointed at that stupid box he had brought to me, "those, those clodhoppers! Does that shoe make you think of my taste? My needs?"

I snatched up a pair of slippers with silk rosettes on the thong, threw one on the floor and shoved my foot in it. Shit. It didn't fit.

"Gina, sometimes you find something you like, but in the end you'll take them home, and they won't fit you right, you know? Shoes are weird like that. I was just making a suggestion."

"Bigfoot wouldn't get caught dead in those shoes," I spat. "My feet are at the end of my legs. I can't hide them, unlike the bald spot on the top of your head."

Louis's face went from perplexed to offended. He swiped his hair back. He re-cuffed his sleeves. He walked calmly back to the stupid shoe box, knelt down, pushed the white shoe beneath the tissue and put the lid on the box. He was about to go to the stock room, but he halted in front of me, tilted his head back and looked me straight in the eye.

"For your information," he said. "Bigfoot is dead. It was a hoax. Totally bogus. If you bothered to read the paper, you'd know that." With the shoe box under one arm, Louis disappeared in to the stockroom.

If I had bothered to read the paper? The nerve. I walked out of Macy's and marched back to Neiman Marcus, my naked soles tough as Nubuck. I returned the sheets, but kept the black lace cami and tap pants. I mean, what the hell? I deserved overpriced underwear. And then I went straight to the shoe department where I saw them poised on an acrylic pedestal. Plum colored Sergio Rossi slides with ankle straps, side bows, and kitten heels. Purrrrr. I picked one up.

"Size twelve," I told the shoe salesman.

His eyes fell to my feet. "Will we be needing nylons today?" he said.

"Just bring me the damn shoes."

He did, and I forced my feet in to each shoes' throat, stood up and wobbled past a mirror. My knees wanted to stay bent, so I made a conscious effort to straighten them with each step until my hips loosened in to a sway. "I'll take them," I said. "And I'd like to wear them now."

I sauntered up to the cashier's counter and gave the cashier my debit card. She swiped it, and the register chugged out a charge slip for $164.86. I didn't blink. I coughed. And then I signed the charge slip.

"I just love those shoes," the cashier said. She read my debit card one last time and then slid it between her fingers as if she were passing me a cigarette.

"Thank you, Genevieve." I was about to tell her that my friends call me Gina, but she held out a lid and an empty Sergio Rossi shoe box.

"Want to pass me the shoes you were wearing?" she said.

Hadn't she seen me walk in? "No," I said. "Just give me the box."

"No problem, Genevieve. I'll give you a large bag. In case you want to do more shopping." She slid the empty shoe box in to a large glossy beige shopping bag and then stepped out from behind the counter. She placed the bag's braided paper handles in my hand. The bag was as long as my thigh. There was no way that bag would fit between my knees and the seat in front of me on the bus.

"You enjoy those shoes, Genevieve," the cashier said. "Have a nice evening." Nice evening?

"Thanks," I said. I left the shoe department cramping my toes so the kitten heels wouldn't clop clop clop on the glossy white floor. The empty shoe box weighed close to nothing in my shopping bag. At least I didn't have to lug the shopping bag through a supermarket. I didn't have to haul grocery sacks to the back of the bus. I didn't have to toss the orange almond salad and stuff wild rice and raisins in to the Cornish hens. I didn't have to rip off the price tags from my cami and tap pants set. I didn't have to do a damn thing. I sat in my cavern of a studio apartment, turned on the television, cracked open a beer, and wandered from channel, after channel, after channel searching for something remotely believable.

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