My husband is wearing ugly shoes. Very ugly shoes.
At first, I didn’t notice. He had just returned from a business trip to New York, and there he stood, next to my desk, beaming.
“What?” I asked. “Is there something in my hair?”
He said nothing. Just kept smiling. He looked very happy.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said, still smiling. Then he stuck out a toe and started stroking my calf.
I shrieked and recoiled in terror. “Oh, my God, what is that you’re wearing?” I asked. His feet were sheathed in some kind of creepy black rubberized gorilla-feet things. “Is that a Halloween costume?”
“They’re new,” he said. “It’s special ergonomic technology to simulate the experience of walking barefoot.” He had bought them after reading a book on the airplane about an isolated tribe of Mexican Indians who can run hundreds of kilometres barefoot.
He stopped briefly to lift a foot and give it a loving gaze, before adding in an awestruck tone, “They’ll make me run faster in marathons.”
“You’ve never run a marathon in your life,” I said.
“Well, now I can if I want to,” he said. Then, as he left the room, he called: “You should try them, too. They’re supposed to be good for lower back pain.”
I was not completely surprised by this sartorial twist. My husband has a history of making disturbing fashion choices. This dates at least to when I met him in the mid-1980s. He favoured striped knit ties in those days.
I waited that one out, but it was followed by the era of the ponytail (circa 1994) and then an awkward cyber-geek eyeglasses period (1995-2000).
But gorilla shoes? (2009-??) I am not Dian Fossey.
Suddenly, a new and terrible thought occurred to me. Where was he lumbering off to, wearing those things? Surely he wasn’t thinking of leaving the house. …
Part of me hoped — wanted desperately to believe, in fact — that he had just gone to stand in front of a full-length mirror. I imagined him admiring his sudden but striking resemblance to a hairy plant-eating primate who was in the process of rebuilding toe muscles weakened by decades of wearing sneakers. (“Our feet have atrophied,” he lectured, sternly. “Not mine,” I said.)