At sixteen I wore purple Chuck Taylors with blue-and-white striped overalls; my dark hair long and wavy, and I’d finally stopped hating my Roman nose and the apostrophe in my last name. I’d been kissed for the first time, recently, and shed my adolescent chrysalis for love’s silky second skin. My best friend Dani and I would go for long walks after school on the street where I lived. We’d walk to the Mall of New Hampshire and back and we’d sing as we walked “Going to the Chapel” or “And Then He Kissed Me” and laugh and talk about the boys we loved who were also best friends. After of years hiding behind books and my poetry, I felt I’d finally arrived.
Those summers were so long and luxurious. Thunderstorms would creep in often in the afternoons and the streets would fill up with water and Dani and I would take off our shoes, roll up our jeans and splash along past some boys house who we’d once had a crush on. And we’d throw back our faces, let the rain soak our hair and we’d sing and we’d laugh. Gone were the red glasses I’d worn since junior high and gone was the shy girl writing notes to her secret crush. Those summer rains opened me up and spilled me out onto the sidewalk. I discovered my feet came alive without shoes. They delighted in the feeling of the road’s warm pavement, the rain swishing around my ankles. Dani and I began walking barefoot in the summer any chance we got. We walked down my street barefoot and through Dani’s south end neighborhood. One day, when my father took us back to school shopping in Boston, we even walked down Newberry Street barefoot past all the ladies with their boutique shopping bags. The pavement under our feet, warm and familiar, gave us a boost so we didn’t just walk past Newbury Comics, we sauntered. New Hampshire girls loose in the big city, we moved through shops gathering up Urban Outfitters’ grunge fashions, delighting in spending our parents’ money. (Later I found I preferred my father’s beat-up flannels to baby-doll dresses, but that’s another story.)
When I was eighteen I got my first tattoo—a crescent-shaped man-in-the-moon– and, barefoot queen that I was, I chose to put it on the top of my foot right beneath my big toe. It felt like a symbol of freedom and originality (never mind that Drew Barrymore had the exact same tattoo in the same spot; I’d first spotted it on the cover of Seventeen magazine). After that, I loved wearing sandals and toe rings to show off my toes and I guess my fetish rubbed off because I remember my first boyfriend, once, sucking my toes, taking them into his mouth one-by-one like oysters as I lay stretched out on the couch. It was a strange sensation, soft and gentle, so unlike the rough pavement of summer and yet somehow completely natural to be kissed in this most sensitive overlooked place.
Recently, I got stuck in the rain unexpectedly after work and came outside to find my car had been towed from the busy city street where I’d left it. Fighting back tears at the thought of the hefty ticket and cab ride that laid ahead, I set out on the twenty minute walk home through the pouring rain. I had on sandals that day—red Italian sandals—and my tattoo peeked through as the rain washed over them reminding me of those long ago summer walks with Dani. Stopping, I slipped off my sandals, slowed my pace down to a saunter and let the rain wash down to kiss my toes. Once a barefoot queen, always a barefoot queen.