8:32 am: Italian tooled leather loafers should arrive. Inga sat on her usual stool at the coffee shop, tapping her pen on the countertop.
She flipped through her notebook and looked at her wristwatch. Tuesday 8:33 am. Loafers always came at 8:31. She tapped some more.
Stilettos entered. Inga logged: 8:36 am Stilettos; Red; Ankle strap; Closed toe. Stilettos crossed the threshold fast, a blur. Inga’s eyes followed the shining patent leather as they clicked past. She wondered if the woman needed to walk so quickly in order to keep from falling over.
8:38 am: A pair of Nikes entered. Inga noted: blue suede upper, soles worn through to white at the toes. A new sighting, she drew a star next to the notation.
8:41 am: Stilettos dashed out, Nikes on her heels. The shop was empty except for Inga and tan moccasins with white plastic soles. He crossed his feet and the shoes swayed as if keeping time to music. Though no music played. Maybe he wore earphones, but Inga never looked above the ankle.
She lay her pen down and thought to drink her tea. She always ordered one, but rarely drank it.
8:47 am: No sign of Loafers. She sighed, picturing the high quality shoes, so well cared for. He kept them shined. They’d held their shape with barely a crease for … Inga flipped through her book … over two years.
Some people went through shoes like they went through to-go cups. Stilettos had hundreds of shoes. Inga could count them in her notebook if she wanted.
8:56 am: Inga stared at the door.
“Are you finished?” Orthotic nursing shoes stood toe-to-toe with Inga’s rubber flip-flops.
“The tea. Are you done?”
“Oh,” Inga pulled the cup from the woman’s grasp. “Uh, no. I’m not finished.” She held it to her lips and gulped.
9:12 am: Inga’s right hand clenched the pen poised over a blank page. Normally she left at 9:06, exactly one hour after arriving. She imagined the loafers tossed in a dark closet and shivered.
9:23 am: A pair of paint-splattered work boots entered, followed by another and another. Inga’s fingers moved to jot the time. Her hand stopped. Labor footwear.
She stood to leave. At the door she paused and fumbled with her coat and scarf to free a hand.
“Let me get that.”
Inga looked down. Moccasins. “Thank you,” she said stepping outside.
Moccasins followed. “What do you write?”
Inga flipped her scarf over her shoulders. “Oh, observations.”
“Specks on the floor? Sidewalk cracks?”
Inga didn’t hear the question. A few strides ahead stood brand new loafers. Italian black leather loafers. She stopped.
Moccasins rammed into her. The notebook flew from her hands. A tiny cry escaped her lips as it tumbled to the wet pavement.
The Loafers squeaked a little as the man bent down.
Inga’s lips parted in a half smile.
Loafers stood and held out the soiled pages.
Inga raised her head. “Nice shoes.”
published 23 February 2011