Imagine that the only shoes available to you always hurt. No matter which pair you try on, they always make your feet bleed like hell. And everyone tells you it’s not because the shoes are wrong, it’s because your feet are weird. So you have to find a way to fit your feet in these shoes no matter what. There’s no other choice, you know? Because walking without shoes, you can’t really do that outside your home. Everyone wears shoes around you, and comfortable wearing them — what is wrong with you? There’s obviously something wrong with you. Or maybe everyone suffers and maybe you’re just too vocal about it. Toughen up! Keep it quiet. See? Now that you’re quiet, somehow it’s hurting less. The pain was in your head, you can control it. Even if you’re still bleeding.
After a while you realize you can only walk with shoes that hurt you. Because you have trained your whole body for so long to walk with that one single pair of shoes (and aren’t you lucky to be able to walk at all?) So you keep walking. Step after step, you devise countless strategies to maintain the pain at a tolerable level. And you become scared as hell to try any new pair — what if they are even worse than the ones you’re wearing? Still, sometimes you go a little crazy, you try some new shoes and — yeah, they hurt. But it’s normal, right? Shoes are supposed to hurt, right? Why would you complain about them now? They’re just shoes, no big deal. Everything is normal.
As you walk, you meet people who don’t have the slightest idea of what it feels like not to wear shoes that don’t fit them perfectly at all time. So it makes you wonder. Maybe you could halt and have a better look at their shoes? But when you ask these people for help, some will brush you off — shoes are just shoes — and keep walking. Others will notice the difference and praise how brave you are to keep wearing your shoes even if they hurt you, how resilient — and keep walking. There are also the ones who will tell you that you’re slowing everyone with your questions, and will ask you to keep walking. Finally there are those who will yell at you if you insist, who will tell you to get your bloody hands off their precious shoes and run away. Bloody hands, yes, literally — you know, because of the blood from your own feet?
Usually the ones who already experience some discomfort with their shoes will take more time to see if there might be something wrong with yours. In these moments, you feel exposed (‘No, forget it! They’re just like yours, see?’) and relieved (‘I’m not crazy, there’s something odd here.’) Also worth noting that you love walking barefoot, but even to this day you can only do so in places that feel like home. This is also another thing: The only modes you know are either varying degrees of pain while walking with shoes around people, or healing yourself walking barefoot in safe spaces without any hazard that could hurt you. Unless, you know, some people take advantage of you after being welcomed into your home, then trample your toes and blame your feet for being the problem.
Then you wonder what it feels like. To be able to walk in various places without even wondering if you had shoes on or not because you feel comfortable with or without them.
To go out in the world, and endure constant pain because of marginalization.
Walking with shoes that don’t fit.
I am grateful for the little breaks some people have taken along the way to be angry. To ask themselves why the shoes were made that way and what we could do about them.
Despite having better tools to deal with the pain, or more pairs to wear, most of them still don’t fit.