You could tell a lot about people from their shoes. He didn’t suppose he really had a choice, seeing as shoes were all he ever saw. He could’ve looked up, probably. But it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth trying to make eye contact with people who were so vigorously looking away that they might strain something. It wasn’t worth it, for the few times when people actually met his gaze, with pity or anger or hatred. He’d seen hatred more than he’d like to think about, but pity was bad enough.
He also didn’t look up, admittedly, because he was tired. And hungry. And he was enough of both that the mere act of lifting his head was an effort that he did not want to expend. So he kept his eyes on the ground. And he watched the shoes as they walked by.
Shoes could tell you a lot about people. Maybe that wasn’t exactly true. But they told him enough. He didn’t need to know much. He only needed to know two things, in fact: which people would hurt him or harass him or yell at him to get off of his lazy ass and get a job (not that he minded the yelling, but if that happened, the police would likely get on his case and he’d have to move to the next block), and who might actually help him. Money or food. Money was, admittedly, better. But he wouldn’t reject food, either, especially not as hungry as he was now.
Heels, he had learned, were bad. Their wearers rarely gave him anything, only clicked by on the sidewalk, always in a hurry, even when they were visibly in pain. But heels usually didn’t yell at him, so he supposed they weren’t all that bad. He’d be most likely to get something from ballet flats or sneakers. Although sneakers were also pretty likely to yell at him or throw things, so they weren’t entirely good, either.
The worst were the sleek, black shoes – the ones men wore to work. Loafers or lace-ups, or even the super-shiny ones men wore for ‘special events’ – they were all the worst. At best, they would ignore him. But if he was going to get shouted at or lectured, the source was most likely a pair of black, narrow-toed shoes, like little crocodiles swimming along the sidewalk.
He had learned to shrink a little more as they came by, trying not to be noticed.
So he wasn’t particularly worried when a pair of pointy-toed black high heels click-clacked their way up to him. A hand reached down and he found a sandwich laid gently in his lap. It was new, still in the triangle of plastic that grocery stores sell sandwiches in. Turkey, looked like. He bet if he checked it, the thing wouldn’t even be expired. A bottle of water followed the sandwich. He could feel the weight of it against his leg.
“Here you go,” a young, female voice said.
He still didn’t look up. Old habits die hard, especially when there are good reasons for them in the first place.
“Thank you,” he muttered, trying to make it just loud enough for the woman to hear.
“You’re welcome,” she said quietly.
Maybe he’d been wrong. At least, he’d been wrong about the heels. No high heels had ever given him anything before, but maybe he’d underestimated them, somehow? Maybe things were about to change?
He watched as this particular pair wobbled away. She was, he noticed, none too steady in them. She walked a few steps, and he winced as he saw the shoe slip sideways in a crack on the sidewalk, tipping her to the side. Her ankle bent in an awkward way and she nearly went down, but caught herself just in time, straightening up and walking on, as though she’d only just attempted an unsuccessful dance move.
He chuckled as she walked on, watching her wobble with every step. He wondered if she’d be as generous in a few months time. Or in a few years time.
Or maybe she’d just switch to flats.
Writing Prompt Courtesy of: