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April 18th, 2004

Sole Mates

Home Real and Imagined

 
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My job interview was less than a week away, and I needed shoes. Not only did I need shoes that would make me look responsible, adult, and employable, I also needed shoes that would cover the tattoo on my right foot.

I needed Leighann.

Leighann is one of my best friends, and we moved to New York at the same time. She supported me through such trials as my search for a “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, or last year’s Easter dress hunt that ended in us buying the exact same skirt (though vowing not to wear them at the same time). I knew Leighann would find a solution.

Unfortunately, Leighann now
lives 400 miles away. All I could do was call her for advice on where to look and ask her to pray for me.

It was a cold, rainy Monday evening when I set out on my solo mission. I quickly became discouraged. Every pair I tried was either too big, too expensive, or exposed the tattoo. I grew tired of trudging from store to store.

I want my mommy
If I were at home, this wouldn’t be happening. If I were at home, I could drive my car (heated to perfection) to DSW Shoe Warehouse, and I’d have the perfect pair of shoes in 20 minutes. And they’d probably be less than $60.

Like I was going to find anything that cheap in New York. Plus Virginia would be warmer than New York, and I wouldn’t have to walk everywhere. Walk, and then take the subway, which has its own special odor when the weather turns rainy.

And if I were at home, my mom would make me soup.

By this time I was hyperventilating in the posh new mall at Columbus Circle, and if I didn’t get out of my funk soon, I would turn into “crazy crying girl on the subway.”

Reality check please
I knew this was irrational. I am a 23-year-old adult-like person capable of buying shoes without a chaperone. I haven’t let my mother make me soup since I was 14. And, if I were at home, would we really be sitting down having Hallmark moments? The home of reality is not the warm, fuzzy, inexpensive paradise I long for.

The problem was, I didn’t know how to gracefully exit the pity party I was throwing. The only solution was to leave the mall.

Bright lights, big city
Despite the cold, despite the rain, I started walking. Being able to wander around New York is what I love best about living here. Something about the buildings, the lights, the energy, helps me get outside of myself.

I recalled why I’ve wanted to live here for as long as I can remember. I reminded myself that this is where God has placed me and where I want to be. Where I need to be. I told myself that at times like these, I should turn to the Lord for comfort, although honestly, that usually doesn’t work with me.

Home sweet home, sort of
Getting off of my emotional roller coaster, I realized I was standing outside of Ollie’s—a noodle shop on Broadway—and I’d be hungry soon. I called my roommates and asked what they wanted me to bring them.

When I finally made it home, I had two people to listen to my frustration. We spent the evening eating Chinese and catching up. Listening to their daily exploits and laughing at each other’s stories of class, papers, and work, I had a mini-revelation.

So maybe my Bronx apartment isn’t what I pictured when I dreamed of living in NYC. And so what if I had to hunt for shoes on my own? Here were two people who understood better than anyone else why I’m here because they came for the same reasons. Part of a temporary, surrogate family I’ve formed for myself over the last two years.

That, in itself, comprises a home. And for now it’s enough.

 
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The Author : Grace Ellen Bailey
Grace Bailey writes from the Bronx in New York City.
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