Two Rabbits

Skaneateles Lake, August 31, 2014It was Labor Day and we were getting ready to leave the lake house. My dad was outside in the driveway, which is really just a hill with some tire tracks, looking out at the lake below us, which was all sparkly in the sun. “I always hate to leave,” he said. “Yeah,” I said, pausing because I felt a lump forming in my throat. “Me too.”

I never go up there anymore, to the lake house. I’m “too busy” now, which I know isn’t really true. It’s just that I fear missing something new happening in my own world. And nothing changes at the lake. Or not too much, anyway. My family has owned the land since the 1920s and my great-grandfather and grandfather built the house together after my grandfather returned from World War II. The sailfish that my great-grandfather – allegedly – caught in Florida is still mounted on the wall in the living room. Mass market mystery paperbacks are still stockpiled in one of the first floor bedrooms where my uncle Jim, now dead ten years, used to sleep. The boat house has the same splintery planks on the floor and the same tangled collection of fishing poles that were there when I was a kid. The dock, which has been updated more than once during my lifetime, once again is threatening to fall apart completely.

I used to be up there a lot. When I was younger, when I had to do whatever my family was doing, I spent summer weekends and, sometimes, weeks at a time on Skaneateles. More often than not, those weeks were the last few of August, through Labor Day weekend, after which we’d go home to start school. At the beginning, I would complain about being away from home for so long. By the time we packed our car to leave, I would be fighting back tears as I walked around the lakefront, saying goodbye to practically everything I had touched during my time there. The tree swing, the rusty refrigerator, my uncle’s canoe. I hated to leave the lake as much as I hated to leave home.

One summer, our neighbor who lived there year-round gave me two rabbits to care for while I was there for our extended end-of-summer stay. Clarkie was friends with my mom’s brothers, who all spent more time at the lake than we did. He was six-foot-five, wore cutoff tanktops with cutoff jean shorts that he cinched with a rope belt, and got around the lake on a pontoon boat that he built himself. Clarkie raised rabbits at his house down the road and I was pleased that he’d entrusted me with two of them. One was black and white and the other was brown and I kept them in a cage. I fed them and would let them out to pet them and “get exercise,” which was mostly hopping around the grass near the house. At the end of the summer, I returned them to Clarkie. I’d wanted to keep them, but my parents said no. We had just gotten a dog and it would have been too much for nine-year-old me – not to mention my parents – to take care of a black lab puppy and two rabbits.

Months later, I asked one of my uncles what had happened to the rabbits.

“He probably sold ’em,” he said to me, matter-of-factly.

“Why?” I asked, shuddering to think that a person who wasn’t me was keeping them as pets.

“For rabbit stew!” my uncle said. “They kill them and then they eat them.”

Of course, I thought. This made sense. People who live out in the country would eat rabbits for dinner. But this didn’t make me feel any better. My rabbits were dead.

I thought of the rabbits a few weeks ago, when I was standing in the driveway with my dad, saying that I always hated to leave the lake. I remembered squatting down to open their cage, coaxing them out to enjoy the grass on our hillside. I tried to remember their names, but I couldn’t. At least at first. I pictured the black and white one. I remembered that his name had been Oreo, at least for the three weeks I was taking care of him (or her). But the other one. The brown one. I couldn’t remember its name. I don’t even remember if it was actually brown or if that’s just how I decided to remember it. And that made me sad all over again. Skaneateles Lake, August 31, 2014

Garbage Shoes

“I’m going to throw these shoes in the garbage today,” I told myself, even though I knew I wouldn’t do it. I was walking from my apartment in Greenpoint to the Bedford L stop and my sandals, which I bought last spring because I desperately needed sandals to wear during a trip to Florida, were really bothering me. I don’t know how to explain it but it sort of felt like I’d worn in the straps too much and that my feet were going to slip out of them. I was concerned, but not too concerned. I started thinking about other things, like how much edamame I’d eaten in the last week and the fact that I like every version – including remixes – of “Love You Down” ever made.

Then I tripped on the sidewalk. Not a big trip. Just like, haha the sidewalk is uneven, whatever, it happens. I didn’t even look around to see if anyone had seen me. Then I tried to take another step and my sandal flew off my foot. Well, “flew off” is kind of a strong way to put it. It just lazily fell off my foot, which I noticed when I set my foot down on the cold sidewalk. I tried to slide my foot back into my sandal but that didn’t work, because both of the straps meant for holding in my toes had separated from the sole of the shoe.

This is how I ended up standing on Bedford Avenue with one shoe on for some amount of time that seemed significant, but was really only five to seven minutes. I didn’t want to look at anyone walking by because then I would have to notice them noticing me wearing one shoe. I looked at the ground. I thought about how I was going to get from where I was standing to the subway stop, one block away.

I put the broken sandal back on my foot with the ankle strap that was still attached. I thought maybe I could shuffle to the subway stop, get on the subway, shuffle through Union Square Station and then on to my office, four blocks away. I was nervous about how this was going to work out, but I knew I just had to suck it up and face the embarrassment of shuffling around two different boroughs before 10 AM. I would quickly realize that this plan was bound to fail. My shoe flopped off again after I took one step.

I briefly thought about walking back to my apartment barefoot, but ruled that out after picturing how dirty and possibly bloody my feet would be at the end.

I noticed a clothing store across the street that sold shoes. I wondered how I could possibly cross the street before I realized that it probably wasn’t open at this hour of the day. I googled the store to make sure and found that it wasn’t open until 11. After considering waiting half-shoeless on the sidewalk for two hours until the store opened, I thought that it might be a good idea to ask some people who weren’t in distress to help me.

First, I texted my roommate to see if she had left our apartment yet. I could wait fifteen minutes for her to bring me shoes. Or not. Because she texted me back to tell me that she had already left.

So then I did the next logical thing, which was to call my mother. I don’t think I expected my mom to do anything. She lives 25 miles away. But I did think maybe she could tell me what to do, since she’s really honed that skill over the last 27 years. Anyway, she didn’t pick up.

Luckily, I saw a cab pass by me, at which point I had the brilliant idea to take a cab to the office. I wish I’d had the foresight to hail the cab with my shoe, because I think that image would work really well in this story, but I did not. Instead, I put the shoe in my purse and hailed a cab standing with one foot on the pavement.

I practically dove into the backseat and gave the cab driver my office address. I was sweating. I was now 30 minutes late for work, which is a normal amount of late, but I thought I should probably email my boss and let her know I was being held up. I wrote the following email:

“So…my shoe broke on the way to the subway a little while ago. I had to take a cab from Williamsburg, so I’ll be arriving a little late, wearing one shoe.”

As we sat in traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge, I started wondering how I would procure two working shoes. I’m not one of those people who keeps shoes under my desk at work, partly because I sit at more of a communal table than a desk and partly because I don’t really have enough shoes to just leave some at work. I’d have to find shoes to wear in order to buy shoes. I figured I might have to ask co-workers if I could borrow their shoes, which I thought might be weird. Like, I can only imagine the shit I would talk about someone who asked me if they could borrow their shoes. Unless, of course, I really liked them or wanted to impress them. Then I would be like, “Oh my God, PLEEEASE borrow my shoes.” At this point, though, I thought I should take my dilemma to Twitter.

I tweeted this series of tweets:

9:21 AM: If you just walked by a distressed-looking woman on Bedford Avenue wearing one shoe and holding the other in her hand, that was me.

9:26 AM: How do I get new shoes if I only have one shoe to wear to the store?

9:32 AM: Actually, someone please help me. Where would one buy flip flops at 9:30 am? I feel like no stores are open.

Somewhere in between tweets, I called my mom again. She picked up this time and asked if she could call me back. She was at a meeting for my brother’s high school.

“Okay,” I said. “I was just calling because…my shoe broke while I was walking to the subway.”

She asked me if I was okay and how I was getting to the office. I told her I was fine and that I was taking a cab. She was worried that I would be late, which then made me worry that I would be late, even though I had already emailed my boss. Thinking about that now, it’s easy to see why I’ve always been anxious around authority figures of any kind.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to get shoes,” I said.

“Maybe someone at work will let you borrow theirs,” she said. I agreed that I would probably have to try that tactic, since she had also had that thought.

When I hung up, I looked at Twitter again. I had these responses to my last tweet, which I guess was desperate and earnest enough for people to pay attention:

1. “A big Duane Reade? Bonus if they have Jellies.”

2. “just walk around until you see a guy with no feet and you’ll feel better”

3. “honestly, if you just need crappy ones to walk in, a drugstore, like walgreens”

4. “I love everything about this question”

I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of the drug store thing. Like, there I was freaking out that I would have to wait until a Gap opened to buy shoes while there were literally one million drug stores in the city open and ready to sell me cheap sandals.

I directed the cab driver to drop me off at the Walgreens in Union Square. When I got out of the cab, I tried not to touch the hot garbage water on the street with my bare foot. I mostly succeeded. I somehow got my broken shoe on my foot and shuffled across the sidewalk to Walgreens’ revolving door. Before I could get there, however, I stopped and let an older woman pushing an even older woman in a wheelchair pass me. The woman appeared to be missing the bottom half of both legs, and thus, her feet. I say “appeared” because she had a blanket over her and also, I think I might have just wanted to see someone without feet at that point.

Anyway, I took my broken shoe off once again and entered Walgreens. I walked to the escalator and rode it up one flight, where I saw two women unpacking boxes of facial cleanser. I asked them if they sold flip flops, smiling and sort of theatrically looking down at my shoeless foot so they would get that I was totally in good spirits about my shoe situation.

“Downstairs,” one of them said, smiling back at me.

I had the same conversation with two other Walgreens employees downstairs, each of whom got me closer to the flip flop section. When I finally reached my destination, I was very relieved. However, I quickly became upset again while surveying the flip flop selection, which was mostly sequined and/or neon. I picked the least offensive pair, blue neon jellies with a white sole and took them to the cashier.

Ten minutes later, I walked into the office, my sandals squelching not-too-loudly under my sweaty feet. No one asked me why I was late or even turned around as I passed. I sat at my desk and turned my computer on. Then, I reached into my purse and threw my broken shoe in the garbage.