It's one pair of many and might be the rest are rotting in a landfill. We don't keep everything, right? I keep everything, or at least if feels that way. Stuff accumulates, but why?
I can explain this pair. They're not the last pair, they're the second to last. The very last were thrown in the bin with just three hours of wear because it was over. Just like that. One day she's finishing up a series of performances with Alvin Ailey, and the next she's sobbing in the car because she just can't do it anymore. These things happen more often than not. So why keep any of it if it ends in heartbreak?
They are layers of burlap, cardboard, paper, and glue. Leather, canvas, satin, suede, sweat, blood, and dead skin cells molded to the shape of one dancer's foot. Less than two square inches to support 85 to 130 pounds depending on the height and build of the dancer. They should be replaced every twelve to fifteen hours of dance, but at $95 a pair they tend to 'last' a bit longer.
I don't actually know where they are, but I know I have them. Somewhere.
During the Great Purge of 2019, as I sorted through more than 2,000 books, my daughter asked me why the hell I would keep a book if I'd already read it.
Clearly, you are not a reader, I snarled, defensive and guilty.
I do so read books!
You read text books. That's not the same.
I do so read real books!
OK. True. You do read real books and text books count. I shouldn't have said that.
But, why? Why do you keep them, Mom? Are you actually going to read any of them again?
OK. How many?
Deep sigh. I have no idea. Maybe fifteen percent of them over a period of time. One or two of them more frequently.
Do you know which ones you're going to reread? Wouldn't it make more sense to check them out of the library or even buy them again?
No. Emphatically. No.
Because every time I walk by these shelves, every time I touch the spines, I am reminded of how I felt and what I thought while I was reading them.
That makes absolutely no sense.
But it's more than just that. When I look at the shoes. When I pick them up. When I examine the blasted out box and the one broken shank, and surreptitiously sniff at the canvas, I don't necessarily remember events so much as feelings. What was my experience in the audience of that last Ailey performance? Why did I cry and how were my tears different than those that mixed with my daughter's on the very last day? What did I see that I couldn't possibly have imagined until that one perfect moment, those terribly brief fifteen seconds when no one else moved and she consummated the marriage of traditional Vaganova ballet to the flat backed, stretch and tilt of linear Horton?
I can feel it right now and I'm only looking at the photograph. I feel it with the same intensity that I can feel the memory of her birth. It's the same sense of wonder and disbelief that something so perfectly made could possibly have landed in my arms. It's different in that she was so clearly separate and apart and entirely herself.
I keep those shoes for the same reason I keep the hospital bracelets from three newborn babies. It's the saturation of a moment into an inert object. Pure magic.