16 October 2002
Greatest Hits, volume V
Originally posted 26 January 2002
It began, curiously enough, with shoes.
My sartorial standards are, shall we say, relaxed to the point of being insensate. Indifference accounts for some of this, but the real issue is my inability, for reasons having to do with my failure to conform to the normal size tables, to buy off the rack. (This is less a factor of sheer bulk than you may think; even if I weighed exactly what the anorexiphiles in the insurance industry might desire, I would still be six foot one with a twenty-eight-inch inseam, which is anomalous at any conceivable width.) Confined to catalogs and specialty shops, neither of which is inclined to sell cheaply to their captive customers, I go to as little effort as possible to appear fashionable. The $19.99 pair of shoes, therefore, is an essential ingredient in the wardrobe. However, if you buy these things on a regular basis, you know there are hidden costs beyond twenty dollars and change. There is no real social stigma attached to them except in the snootiest circles, yet somehow you feel as though you have done a disservice to your feet. And three months later, when the shoes seem to be disintegrating with every step, you know it.
Two things you must know about our maintenance guy: he notices things like this and will point them out when no one else is around, and he favors New Balance shoes, not so much for comfort as for their sheer indestructibility. So we had had a discussion earlier this week on the sad state of my sneakers, and unwilling to start the 90-day cycle again with another pair of El Cheapo Grandes, I set out this morning in search of something suitable, and damn the costs. In view of my always-precarious financial situation, this latter was unwise, but damn them anyway.
In general, the farther you get from where I live, the better the shopping up to a point. And that point is about twenty miles away, at one of several industrial-sized enclosed retail compounds. I have avoided the malls for the last couple of months, what with the holidays and all, but I figured late January would be fairly unstressful.
And somewhere on the second floor of the third mall or maybe it was the third floor of the second mall, like it matters one way or another I almost totally went to pieces. It wasn't frustration over the dearth of size 14 EE; I expected that. It was the screaming sensation in the back of my head that I had no business trying to pass myself off as a normal person in shopping mode. I was an impostor, a fraud; I shouldn't be allowed in the same building as Joe and Susan Sixpack and their 2.3 kids churning their way through the pack to the Food Court. I was in tears long before I could get out to the parking lot and blame my condition on the wind.
I've been here before, and I wound up with an ongoing addiction to low-grade tranquilizers in lieu of actual response. And still there is no reasonable response. I was still shaking by the time I made it to the supermarket. (The very gates of hell may be yawning open, but dammit, the chores must be done first.) A sign of creeping agoraphobia? I don't think so. There are symptoms that point elsewhere. For one, I don't sleep well at all; two hours, maybe, and I awake, and the cycle repeats once or twice, three times on weekends. And this pattern exists without the usual bane of the apartment-dweller: the idiot upstairs. It will only get worse when they finish remodeling. There is no comfort zone anywhere, no place where I might find some small semblance of peace.
And I still need a new pair of shoes.