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Bridging the gap -- with shoes

I woke up this morning, got dressed, brushed my teeth, threw on some jeans that seemed clean enough, ate breakfast and drank a copious amount of coffee. I intend to get over that habit eventually.

I continued to the mudroom, feeling especially chipper for it being 7:30 on a Monday morning, made some crack under my breath about all the uses for my mom's oatmeal (which happened to be especially coagulant this morning), and grabbed my coat. It was looking to be a pretty good day.

That is, until I went to get my shoes.

I had not given my Asics an honest looking over for quite some time, and things had taken a sharp turn for the worse since my last assessment. My right shoe had an enormous hole in its upper meshy portion, not to mention several cracks in the lower seams, completely negating any water-resistant qualities it may have once had. My left one was not much better off.

Besides the various stains (which I had known about before), my left sole had begun to separate from my left upper in the front, making the shoe, when viewed from directly ahead, look a little like some sort of deranged talking duck-face. I noticed this immediately, and, hand in shoe, walked over to my mom and squawked, opening and closing my duck-face as I spoke: "I think Nathan needs a new pair of shoes."

"After school."

"Sounds good", I said, still speaking from my alternate self. I wasn't quite ready to let the joke die yet, (opportunities like that don't come by every day), so I opened my duck-mouth the widest I could get it and sang, in my deepest, most beautiful voice: "Holey, holey, ho-oo-ley." Then, I took my shoe off my hand and put it on my left foot, feeling slightly ashamed of myself.

I did not have a good day at school, being constantly self-conscious about the state of my shoes. I was constantly shoving them under desks and standing on the sides of my feet whenever I was directly facing people, so as to make the shredded mesh of my uppers a little less obvious.

During my bathroom break between Periods 5 and 6, I finally figured out that, by simply loosening my belt and letting my pants hang low, I could all but completely hide my dying shoes under my jeans. Of course, that created an entirely new crisis . . . pants do not increase their coverage simply because you adjust them. It's give and take. And I'm not cool enough to be walking around with my underwear half-exposed.

When the glorious dismissal bell -- sounding even more than usual like an anthem of freedom -- rang, I ran out the door and drove to the family-owned department store in DL, where, true to her word, my mom was waiting.

She had already picked out a few pairs of shoes that she considered possibilities, all of which I eliminated immediately. I went over to a rack on the other side of the shoe-department and came back with a pair of red sneakers with bright white accents and lots of funk. As I thought about it, though, I became increasingly aware of the baggage these shoes would bring with them.

To pull of shoes like these, I would have to grow my hair out and start wearing purple pants or otherwise change my appearance in some very drastic way. At the very least, my glasses would have to go.

As I was trying on a pair of more conservative Rockports, my mom chimed in: "Why don't you write your column about this experience, about buying new shoes?"

"I'm not that desperate, Mom."

I eventually settled on a certain pair of brown Skechers. They seemed like the perfect compromise between the freaky red sneakers (which I'm not quite ready to embrace) and the all-leather, more formal pair that I would have happily worn last year.

With their eclectic combination of leather and canvas, which make for a look that is simultaneously classy, and individualistic and bold (not to mention retro -- they kind of look like 1950s bowling shoes) my new pair of shoes serve as a nice bridge between my past and future self.

So, life is better now. It doesn't matter that I don't have a girlfriend or that I'm out of money (again), or even that the entire high school football team is probably plotting, as I write, to twist me into a pretzel for the last piece I wrote for the school newspaper. My new shoes have set a standard for my life, and the standard is high.

Everything else is bound to follow.

Nathan Kitzmann is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School.