Dear Smelly Old Birkenstocks,

I bought the pair of you back in 1992, probably with my first check from working at Sam’s Subs in the Palouse Empire Mall in Moscow, ID. (Neither of us had met Zoot yet, which really isn’t here nor there. I’m just sayin’). I wore you for at least a couple of years before I purchased a second pair that slipped on; you, of course, have to be strapped on partly because that’s your design, but mostly because you’re totally codependent. But I’ll underscore that latter point more in a moment.

I first discovered this when I went to see that killer triple bill (Zoot came along) at The Gorge in 1995 with Live, PJ Harvey and Veruca Salt. It was August; I had just started shaving my head; I didn’t bring a hat; I wore my first and only Sandman t-shirt; we played Hearts and Spades with a worn deck of pinochle cards. We drove all morning to get to the amphitheater just in time to sit in the sun and bake for hours before the gates opened in the early afternoon, and we drove all night after they closed because we were young, stupid and totally in love with Ed Kowalczyk back then (whose acting career never exactly took off after his appearance in Fight Club, by the way, and wore not nearly enough mascara on national TV last year when he sang a duet with Chris Daughtry on American Idol; true to form, of course, Daughty did wear enough mascara, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m just sayin’).

See, I had worn the slip-on pair to the show instead of you, and when I returned home in the wee hours of that next day you were waiting for me at the threshold of our apartment. You figured you could stay up late enough to berate me over choosing the other pair, but you had forgotten about the double-shift I’d pulled at Sam’s the night before the concert so I’d have enough scratch to cover the trip; as a result, you fell asleep before I got home, and didn’t wake up until I had already returned, rubbed some benzocaine into my scalp, and collapsed into that sweetest of post-concert sleep that’s finely punctuated by wave upon wave of false ringing in the ears.

I’m sure you remember the colossal fit you threw later that day. That much is for sure. I ended up smashing you into the bottom of a U-Haul box and we didn’t see each other for almost 10 years after that; the next time we met, I was significantly older, fatter, and marrieder, and I didn’t have to shave my head nearly as often. You had been permanently replaced by a pair of Doc Marten sandals, and I was so happy I constantly tripped over my own smile.

So I’m hoping you can imagine how much it pained me to unpack you from your cardboard crypt this morning and strap up for work again. Gone are my beloved Doc Martens, stolen from me by age, wear, and a particularly painful flaw in buckle design (for when those buckles go, they really go). Yes, you got to attend my department meeting today. And yes, later you got to be front and center in the classroom as I improvised a feminist reading of Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor vis-a-vis the Book of Genesis. And for a while, yes, it was nice spending time with you again. You must know how I hate to admit that.

But it’s all temporary because as I walked across the parking lot to my car after class, I remembered all too well why I’ve kept you out in the garage for all this time. In short, baby, you smell. Plus you have an awful knack for slipping an errant rock between the ball of my foot and the cork of your footbed. Any hopes you had for us getting back together died when that little chunk of asphalt dug itself into the soft padding of my left foot. You know it, so stop looking at me like that. Did you really think this would end any other way? Come on, now.

Tomorrow we’re saying goodbye once and for all. Hot Topic already has your replacement waiting for me. Let’s just get it over with and move on, shall we?



One response to “Dear Smelly Old Birkenstocks,

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