Before it was wide and open like outstretched arms trying to hold the tree forever, but now Will’s smile slackened.
“It’s gorgeous though. All these people were here and now we are.”
“Now we are,” Chelsea nodded. Her eyes did not look away from him soon enough. He felt like he did when he was a child, standing in the corner, the babysitter revealing the belt.
He walked to a low branch and rubbed the soles of holed, wasted hiking boots, twirled the laces of green Converses, looked fondly at high tops similar to those he was wearing. Overhead hundreds of shoes hung from taller branches. A pair of stilettos flirted from a hollow, their spiky heels hooking into the wood.
“Look at these,” he smiled. “They knew where they were headed. Imagine heels out here.”
She nodded again.
“They were after your own heart,” he grinned.
Her eyes wandered as she walked around the tree, communing with the feast of footwear. Will sat down in the dirt and took off his sneakers. He tied the laces together and threw them high in the air. They arced on the way down and kicked a branch, shaking other shoes and failing to stick. He glanced at her and laughed, then threw them again. This time they stuck.
“Nice shot huh?” he said.
She looked up at his dangling shoes and then at his bare feet.
“I don’t think I have any shoes to give this tree,” she said.
Will smiled at her. His lips hurt.
“You’re the first woman who ever came with me,” he said. “The road life is lonely. No one else has ever wanted to leave their life behind for me.”
She nodded quickly.
“You don’t have to give this tree any shoes. It’s not looking for yours.”
“I know that,” she sighed. “I just didn’t bring any heels.”
He looked at the stilettos hanging from the hollow. The last time he saw her wearing heels was eight months ago, the night she joined him on a train, with only a single bag. He warned her, it was supposed to be a last dance. She swore it was a new beginning.
“I know.” He put his hand in hers.
Walking barefoot back through the high grass, he did not turn his head when she let his hand go.
published 20 April 2011