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  • Kirk Barbera

The Man with Two Pairs of Shoes

The moment I saw him I felt that I had to follow him. It’s not something I’ve done before, but I had to understand this man with the two pairs of shoes. Before I tell you about him, let me tell you about myself.


I’m 34 and I’ve worked in sales most of my life. But that gets so boring. I took to living vicariously through the eyes of people online. Look, I didn't know that’s what I was doing. All my time—well not all my time, I sold stuff too—but most of my time was spent swimming with the Blitz near his yacht and lounging on private jets with a harem of beauties. I danced on stage and swam with sharks and played with the naked girlies. Then I got off the toilet.


When the man with the two pairs of shoes walked into the coffee shop where I was trying to read, I couldn’t stop staring. He limped like he’d been bitten by a snake. He moved like one too. Held casually in his hand were a pair of sandals. He wore a blue button shirt and black jeans a little too big for him. His lower body seemed quite thin, though most males these days are too thin. He had a large bald spot. He wore wire framed glasses. The sandals were part of his body. They dangled precariously from the two fingers on his right hand. He would lift up his arm to clear the sandals of nearby obstacles. He was almost floating through my coffee shop, raising and lowering his sandals and smiling at nothing.


I should mention that I was not in a coffee shop by the beach. I’m inland from the California coast. There’s not much need for sandals here. It wasn’t even sandal weather. I am always hot but today even I wore a light jacket. His sandals were not flip flops. I would never buy such a pair. It looked as though they were made out of cork, with brown leather straps. Two brown straps for each sandal. Not a pair I would buy, that’s for certain.


I had become distracted from him when my cutie behind the counter smiled at me. I wasn’t dating her or anything, she was much too young. I probably wouldn’t mind though. But I enjoyed sharing my wisdom to so alluring an audience.


He came closer now. I thought he looked straight at me for a moment. I squirmed in my seat, but reminded myself that I’m the one scrutinizing him. His big dumb smile crawled across his face and he touched the books on the wall. Then he sat down.


Now remember, he is holding his sandals this whole time. He is wearing brown dress shoes. When he sits down I realize he had bought a coffee at some point. I missed that! Damn her cuteness. Women are always a distraction. She did look good in those skin tight pants.


In the way that skinny effeminate men can easily fold themselves in half like a piece of gum, he reached down to untie his shoes. One shoe untied, he removed his shoe. Right there in the coffee shop. No one seemed to mind. I knew they felt like I did though. I’m always the one who has to speak up. I was livid. I wanted so badly to tell him to get out. But she was right there. I could see her full figure all in black with her brown hair pulled back in a suggestive pony-tail. Distractions!


I had to focus. He was removing the other shoe now. Slowly, his heel popped out. Both feet now fully revealed. He had pristine white socks. I could swear someone had pressed them they were so perfect. They were blindingly white. He would not let his feet touch the ground. I could not believe what I was watching. He took the sandals, placed one—the right one—on the floor and slyly entered the sandal. Then he repeated.


I have big meaty, strong hands. I gripped them together to keep myself from jumping up and ripping the sandals from his feet.


He just sat there, taking a sip from his coffee and staring straight at the wall. His body never moved otherwise. I bet had I thrown my coffee on him he would not have reacted. Or maybe he’d have fallen in a heap.


I swear, it must have been precisely two hundred and seventy three seconds later and he folded completely in half again. This time I thought of those inflatable tube men some businesses use for advertising. He removed one sandal. Then the other. He entered one shoe and then the next and tied. His fingers tying his knots were the damn string to my throbbing brain. It was the only live part of him.


Standing up in one fluid motion, he had his sandals in the same two fingers on his right hand and his almost full coffee in his left hand. Rising and falling his sandals again floated on the current of air breezing through the cafe. He dropped his coffee in the trash, turned and smiled at nothing. His steps were such tiny ones, I thought he must have some form of paralysis.

And just like that he left. One tiny slither after another. He crossed the road to his car. He had a normal car. He just appeared so damn normal now. I decided I would follow him. I was nervous. As I said I’d never done that. That’s when I noticed. He was still there. Sitting in his car.


I probably should have mentioned it was eleven in the morning on a Tuesday. Doesn’t he have a job?


Whatever the case, this was my chance. I shoved my book in my backpack and ran to my car. I was just in time as his silver car was finally in motion.


The thrill was ecstatic. My eyes took in more visuals than ever before. I felt like a P.I. on the hunt. I couldn’t wait to talk to my girl. Maybe she wasn’t too young after all.


I parked a block from his house. It was nondescript except for the dozens of perfectly manicured rose bushes framing the walkway and front of the house. It was like an arrow to him.


I told myself I’d just walk by maybe once or twice. All it took was once. I never saw the color of his door. The doorway was pitch black. Wide open. I was tempted to run in and throttle him. Instead I controlled my breathing and moved slowly to his door. Looking down I realized I was taking tiny little snakelike steps. I laughed.


His head popped from the darkness and he smiled. He was still holding his sandals with two fingers. Had he driven like that? He raised them in salute then vanished in the darkness. It was an invitation.


Now’s a good time to mention my size. I’m a big guy on any standard. And my hobby was lifting weights. I felt confident I could bend the skinny man the wrong way, if it came to it.

I entered.


The house had almost no furniture. There were two lawn chairs in the living room. Standing beside one was the man with two pairs of shoes. He was no longer smiling dumbly. Now the corners of his mouth curved downward and his eyes bore into me again. I had wanted to ask so many questions to do some many things with him. All I could say was “Hi.”


His smile returned and he nodded toward his sandals. I felt… nervous, I must admit. Not the nerves before a fight. I felt no physical danger. My hands were a little sweaty and I could feel the blood in my body pulsating.


He took one small step then another and another. He headed toward a room in the back. I did not hesitate to follow. I knew there would lie the secret of his sandals.


I wish there were words to describe it. It was not a normal room. Entering was like transitioning to another state of existence. Like doing shrooms. I understood things I never imagined I had questions to. I had been self absorbed in a way that caused me to miss an important universal principle about the power of us humans.


We learned so many secrets together. Could have been moments or weeks but it was a lifetime. We learned everything there was to learn. When we would later go to cafes or bars or street corners or concerts, we had our sandals. People would stare at us, but we didn’t mind. We were searchers. As we became united we learned to scour, to pleasure, to enlighten. We were no longer desirous to the young girl. The whole world desired us. It was all ours and she was just one part, to be enjoyed. The whole world was ours even though part of us would forever remain in that house. We learned the secret of metaphysics and epistemology of science and art and life. We could be many places at once and no place at all. Our time in the house was forever, even when we left it. We grew to love the lure and the shock of a person who must know the secret of those sandals. They often follow us and we will share the secret with them. Yes there are only two pairs of shoes. Watch for us out there. If you must know the secret.