On the stoop, at the intersection, end days before summer. The flood of shoes just happened. I had no idea I would witness the surge of the fifteen- or twenty-minute procession. There’s a cool breeze in this bright hour before dusk begins, where the night before had been hours of black, bored rain.
Humidity lies in wait. (A few days yet.) Traffic starts and chugs in regular intervals north-south and east-west as I look down at a text, Instagram. Before I can fall into Twitter, in peripheral vision I recognize, looking down, the world is shoes.
This time of day, beyond work, toward play, the sun shines in artful, welcoming columns, radiates long spikes along the street and sidewalk. Any frame a photographer could make would gleam. There are men’s bulky running shoes and leather shoes and white-soiled-to-gray fucking Converse, but this wave of foot traffic is mostly women, women who long anticipated first opportunity to pair beloved shoes with simple summer.
Look up, faces and figures that pass in drifts and puddles of late afternoon light resemble the theatrical photo tableaux by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Look down, the floor of the urban forest is peopled by the fanciful parade. There are, of course, bared calves, ankles, Achilles tendons, all matter of skin. Style is ecumenical, eclectic, electric in this moment. Every woman passerby has found the fancy to match her dance toward summer.
This is a census of only minutes of time: Pristine white clogs, a nurse, a chef? Espadrilles, timeworn, maybe pup-gnawed. A long lemon babouche with fresh pedicure visible on the heel, rudely smooth.
Chuck Taylors in black, and yellow, and black, low-rise white socks peeping, Achilles’ tendons in stride. Strapped cork wedge shoes, catapulting the 1980s onto the modern city sidewalk. Magenta plastic jellies.
Cork Birkenstocks with a slim shiny black patent fork between the toes. Toes, too, in cheery fresh coats: cherry-red lacquer, Vamp polish, a turquoise the color of Fiestaware. Long toes on lime flip-flops.
The unlikely crushed-velvet slingback thong. (The woman’s voice rises in laughter at what the pair of Doc Martens said.) Shiny teal flats with revealing toe line.
These shoes have been waiting. These walkers have anticipated. This day would come. The sunset would set, Chicago air fragrant and not filthy. Walking would be joy, part of a larger good mood that could last at least until last eyelid flutter.
Falling light slants toward set. It’s blinding, really. This small slice of city canvas glows. For these fifteen minutes or so, each passing person seems to have showered not ten minutes earlier, greeting this first bright, warm afternoon after rainy days and nights of heavy downpour, putting on cheery, cheeky, happy costumes and footwear. It’s more than acknowledging the break in weather, it’s tribute in anticipation of summer, as soon as it arrives, so long as it shall linger: in this summer city of Chicago, I, passerby, will be as nearly barefoot as I dare. Let’s go places, quickly, and let’s go now! There is no summertime to waste.