I meet many people in my line of work, and yesterday I met a man that inspired me. His appearance struck me so much that I couldn’t stop making up stories about him in my head.
The man, I didn’t ask his name, was in his mid-50’s I would guess. Balding on top, his curly black hair reached his shoulders in the back. He wore a nice suit, but it was tailored to a man smaller than him. The front gaped between the buttons, and the pants were a full three inches too short. His shirt collar was ragged from being pressed too many times, and the shirt itself was a shade somewhere between pink and tan.
Socks showed plainly under the hem of his trousers, and they were mismatched. One was a navy blue, the other a pale gray.
His shoes caught my attention. The black loafers he wore were polished to a mirror shine. The soles were dark black, and not one scuff mark could be found on them.
I wondered where this man called home, if he had a home. I imagined him sitting in a smoke filled bar, because the scent of whiskey laced his breath. I speculated on a family long gone and a loneliness that haunted his soul.
When I got in bed last night, his image troubled me and I began to describe him to my drowsy husband. When I told him about the man’s shoes, he stopped me.
“He must have been military.” The words rumbled out in rough sleepiness.
Then, in my mind, I saw him. Polishing his boots, putting on a uniform and fighting for what he believed in. Seconds later, I saw him coming home to a wife and small children who couldn’t understand why daddy had nightmares. The wife couldn’t comprehend the horrors he refused to share with her. Then I saw her pack the kids in the car, look at him one last time and drive away to her mother’s.
The last image that raced through my mind was of his tears, his endless shoe polishing, and his retreat into a bottle.
All this from his shoes.
5 hours ago