Saturday, August 8, 2009


For as long as I can remember, I've been endlessly fascinated by other people's stories. When I go to a wedding or bar mitzvah, even if my connection to the festivities is tangential at best, I feel compelled to learn everything about the celebrating family. I want to know all their back stories -- to figure out which cousin belongs to which black sheep uncle, and which sister-in-law is the Iraq war veteran with a medical degree from Harvard.

When I see a homeless person on the street, I can't help wondering, "How did they end up there?" I want to fill in the missing parts of the trajectory from the little boy running through a sprinkler under a mother's loving, watchful eye, to the man standing on the side of Northern Parkway with a sign asking for money.

It's the storyteller in me, the reason I've spent most of my adult life dropping into other people's lives for a short while to learn their stories, and then telling them in the many magazines and newspapers I've written for. In all honesty, I think it's a bit of cowardice that inspired my professional life. I'm perpetually fearful that I'm not particularly interesting or insightful enough on my own. I prefer to be the empty vessel, filled up with the collective energy from all those amazingly interesting people I've trailed over the years, the Grammy winners and Senators and middle school teachers and good Samaritans.

And it's not even just people's stories that fascinate me. It's any story. Stories about places and things, even. When we pulled out the rusted medicine cabinet in our 1930 bathroom, I was morbidly fascinated by the cache of used straight razor blades we discovered in the empty space in our wall. (Apparently, old-style medicine cabinets had a slot in which to deposit them.) It wasn't quite as shocking as finding, say, a dead body or a dinosaur bone, but it felt almost thrilling to me, somehow. A tangible link connecting us to the stranger who'd stood in our bathroom all those mornings years ago.

Which brings me, somewhat improbably, to a blog post about a shoe.

Specifically, a slightly grannyish, black leather Franco Sarto woman's pump.

At about 5:00 in the evening on Saturday, I dashed out for a last minute run to the grocery store. And as I walked into our neighborhood Shopper's, I couldn't help but notice that there was a single shoe perched rather regally on a concrete ledge facing the parking lot. There was nobody around. Not a soul. (The store is frequented by a heavily Orthodox population and is notoriously empty on Saturdays.)

There was just this....shoe.

I had to take a picture. I just had to.

Immediately, my mind began to wander. How had that shoe -- especially just one of them -- ended up in that spot, at that moment? Where was its owner? Where was its...mate?

I know that there are all sorts of fascinating urban legend-y theories about why shoes get hung over power lines, but I've never heard anything about leaving singletons in grocery store parking lots.

And so I'm putting it out to you.

Use the comments section of this post to create a plausible (or not) explanation for the fate of this poor abandoned piece of footwear. You know it has a story. Everything has a story. So let's see what you've got, shall we?


  1. Roger, the night manager, never did find out that enchanting new cashier's name. As midnight tolled across the nearly empty store, he watched her flee from her post at checkout lane 6. She never looked back. She didn't even clock out.

  2. Hmmm, I think the owner changed out of her pumps after work and into her white tennis shoes (which looked awful with her outfit, btw). She stopped at the store on the way home to pick up something quick for dinner. She didn't notice one of her shoes slip out of the car as she loaded her groceries into it. A few minutes later, an elderly gentleman saw the shoe sitting in the parking lot. Missing his recently departed wife, he lovingly picked up the shoe and set it on the ledge, hoping the owner would return for it.

  3. The shoe belongs to Cinderella, of course. She lost it running away from real life and back to the fantasy world of glass slippers, ball gowns, and being a princess.

    Can you blame her?

  4. "Avi, if you don't hurry up, the sun will start setting. Go get your gefilte fish already. If we're late for shabbos, I'll kill you. You know we can't be out after sundown."

    "Okay, okay. I'm going," Avi said. "Stop telling me what to do. what's gonna happen if we're two minutes late? You gonna turn into a pumpkin?"

    Miriam waited outside the Shopper's, quietly seething about her husband's chronic lateness. She knew the match was a bad one from the start, but the Rabbi saw it differently. Who am I to quibble with the Rebbe, she thought.

    Through the windows of the supermarket, Miriam could see her schleppy husband wandering the aisles looking for his beloved gefilte fish. The sun was nearing the horizon.

    "Avi! Let's go!!" she yelled, rapping with her ring on the glass. He didn't notice. He was looking at a box of matzoh, left over from Pesach. I'm gonna kill him, Miriam thought.

    And like that, she was alone. there wasn't a sole left in the shopping center. The good jews were all inside their homes, lighting candles, saying prayers. And with that, Miriam was gone.

    A few minutes later, Avi mad his way out of the store. Where was Miriam? He looked on the street and saw a shoe--Miriam's shoe.

    "Sonnofabitch," he grumbled to himself. I started out with a Jewish American Princess and now I'm married to fucking Cinderella."