by Kim Ivy
This is the course of my training. First, there is an awkward newness, then after hundreds of repetitions there is familiarity and finally, a welcomed stability and trust. I allow myself the hope that what I feel will be a part of my life for some time to come. But time passes. Sometimes it is only six months. Sometimes I manage two years. I can never predict it. But, eventually these feelings change. My stability lessens, imbalances intercede, and I recognize the inevitable. I ignore it for a few more months. Finally I accept it. I grieve for a time. Then I talk myself into the same courage I did at the beginning and act boldly. I go to the store and buy a new a new pair of shoes.
Each time I walk into the store my thoughts leap effortlessly over what experience has taught me to be true. “I’m sure they will still be there, it hasn’t been that long since I bought them last time.” Reality emerges as I methodically scan the racks. I smell leather, plastic and cotton. I see a large cache of colors and soles. But I do not see my favorite pair of simple white shoes with red stripes. Though I know the answer, I seek a sales person. “No m’am, I’m sorry but they have been discontinued,” he says, walking me over to a rack of purple and green thick-bottomed shoes. “But these are the newest models, aren’t they fabulous?” It is a brand I have never heard of. I know I will twist something if I pivot on their balls. “M’am?” The echo of his question brings me back into the moment, “laces or Velcro?” “Velcro?” It takes me a moment to process this concept. I realize I am at least 20 years older than him.
He moves on to a more promising customer and I look around at the displays. I decide it is as good a day as any to forage through the latest models. I am lucky this year that my shoes broke down at the beginning of the season. I never go when there is a sale. I will let my feet hurt for a few weeks longer and will pay ten dollars more for the privilege of remaining as anonymous as possible, eschewing the myriad customers and sales people as I rummage boxes of shoes, feeling for the next brand that fits my asymmetrical feet. I find a prospect and seek an impossibly discreet corner for testing: stepping and weight shifting, standing on one leg. I am more skilled at ignoring glances than I am with the moves.
Somewhere amidst the strewn boxes I find a suitable shoe. It is still not my favorite shoe but I buy two pair, convincing myself that I have beaten the game. But as the sales person rings up my purchase I know it is a transient idea. I will be here again, experiencing the same dilemma, the same emotions. “Would you like me to dispose of these?” the sales person asks me, thumb and index finger holding up the back of my old shoes as though she has caught a rat by the tail. They dangle in space for a moment and I think about it. I feel the new shoes wrapping around my feet. They are tight and stiff but I have left them on, hoping to get a jump start on the new course of training. “No thank you, just place them in the bag, please.” I look down to sign the charge slip avoiding the quizzical look on his face.
When I am home I remove the old pair from the bag and tuck them away in a corner of my closet while I set the second new pair on the rack in front of me. “Perhaps if I alternate them,” I think wondering how to extend their life. With the new pair on my feet a familiar excitement emerges. There is a new course in front of me and while at first I will be awkward, over time these shoes will support the grace of new forms I will learn. I am already forgetting that I will grieve when it is their time to pass. Before I close the door and go to practice I see the worn leather toes of a forgotten shoe pressed up against the corner of a plastic storage bin on the top shelf of my closet.
I take the box down and recognize a pair of old training shoes that has survived the Goodwill donations of three moves. Removing the lid and pulling them out, I am barely conscious of simultaneously slipping off my new black Velcro shoes. It has been years since I slipped the pure white shoes around my feet and though they are broken down, they are surprisingly familiar. I cinch their frayed ties, my instep feels secure. I stand up and feel my weight sink down into their thin soles. I bounce up and down a bit and move to on open space in my living room. I inhale; breathing years of old wood floors, damp grassy parks and sweat. I exhale. The memories of teachers, students and practices flood my body. I step left, raising and lowering my arms. I turn right and step forward. A form emerges that has been long forgotten.