When you don’t want to work for wages and you don’t own your own business, options for making money are few and far between – Kyle thought. It was difficult to be free. With no car, he couldn’t be an Uber/Lyft driver and with no spare room to rent he couldn’t participate in Air B&B. Thank God he had this old banjo and a good singing voice.
Kyle counted up the money in his Deering case and added it to the rest in the hidden recesses of his jacket. Pocket money, it helped pay for dance lessons, haircuts, the gym… – all the extras in life. His anesthesiologist father reluctantly kept him in food and shelter. What daddy didn’t provide (in an effort to encourage him to go to college) was extra cash he thought as he patted his hidden take.
When you worked in tourist areas you learned never to leave too much money in whatever collection container you might have in front of you. He had also learned never to keep it in his wallet – the real one in danger of pick pockets nor the fake one with an old ID, an expired credit card, and twenty dollars to be surrendered to muggers.
He boarded the bus and sat with his feet firmly planted on the ground. He was embarrassed by the holes in his sneakers inspired by impromptu pirouettes on cement. These creative outbursts had worn sweet little circles in the soles of his shoes.
Irritatingly enough he had just purchased a new pair of boots rather recently. Well, not exactly purchased. But they were new, he thought coincidently spying an identical pair on the feet of a man directly in front of him. (You never looked anyone in the eye on the bus if you could help it. Kyle always kept his eyes firmly on peoples feet).
They had been a replacement for a pair of Timberland hiking boots he had purchased and then split the soles off the upper. He had frequently abused the boots balancing on his toes at bus shelters while waiting on public transit. They had been expensive (for him) and trendy and the experience had made him just mad enough to walk himself down to Nordstrom’s and demand a new pair. They should have lasted a lot longer than they did. Maybe they hadn’t been designed for point-work but Nordstrom’s didn’t need to know that. He would certainly refrain from practicing such dance moves in good shoes in the future.
The clerk had looked at him in disbelief when he had presented them to him. It was a look of “oh my God, what have you been doing to these poor shoes”. However, he had agreed that they should have lasted longer and then exchanged them for a new pair after approval from a manager.
Then unexpectedly, his trendy replaced Timberland boots had gone missing. Sure, they had almost immediately thrown a shoelace grommet, but to Kyle this had seemed like the price you would be expected to pay for the shenanigans he had gone through to get them. It was karma. It had never even occurred to him to demand another replacement. They had thrown a grommet, just like the ones in front of him. They must all have the same defect he pondered missing his shoes. It probably wouldn’t even matter if he had exchanged them. They would probably all throw the same eyelet. He wondered what the odds were that his shoes would have the same defect as the one in front of him.
They almost looked identical to the pair that had gone missing – certainly they were the same size. Kyle looked up suddenly to see if the shoes were on anyone he recognized. He met the eyes of a stranger in midst of a blush and a guilty look. Kyle couldn’t place this man’s face anywhere.
The man abruptly got up and pulled the cord that announced he would get off at the next stop. Kyle kept staring at him and the man kept avoiding his gaze. Kyle had no idea what to do. The city had conditioned him to prepare for pick-pockets and muggers, but he was in no way prepared to come face to face with someone wearing his missing shoes.
After the man got off, Kyle wondered – even if the man had stolen his shoes somehow – what he could have done to get them back. And if he had stolen them, how on earth had he managed to do it, and where, and when? Was this guy some trick of his fathers and he had taken them as a trophy? Had he accidentally left them at the gym or dance school and this guy had taken them? He often changed his shoes to clogs or sandals after a workout as he hated shoving his swollen feet into tight boots.
Another twist of karma Kyle decided giving in to the fact that no amount of speculation would bring those boots back. He leaned back is his seat placing his earbuds back in. He would take comfort in having a rich father. Today’s work had afforded him another month of classes and perhaps another pair of shoes. Boots or no boots, was still free from getting a real job or going to school. Maybe this time he would purchase shoes that were cheaper… and something he could slip on.
Keep on walking in a free world, he hummed silently to himself changing the lyrics. Kyle was; after all, the star of the musical fantasies he lived in, the chanteuse of his cabaret, and the diva of his one man show.