The Shoes

by Mónica Ferreira

These days, I spend more nights at my boyfriend’s place than I do at my own. I go over after classes and end up staying until the next morning, when I finally make it home again to somehow get ready for the day, which will inevitably end up with me at my boyfriend’s place again, doing something – anything – with him. It’s become such an everyday thing that he went and got me my own set of keys.

            Lately, he’s been leaving his shoes at the door, right in front of it, big dirty shoes sprawled on the front squared carpet with the words hakuna matata on it. I suppose he’s always done that, but I’ve only noticed it now. He used to have to come open the door for me, but now that I have the keys, I can just let myself in. I guess he used to just kick the shoes out of the way. I guess he doesn’t anymore, because now when I open the door, I always trip on them.

At first, I would just put them away myself, tucked them neatly under the table he has on the hallway, where he piles up all the mail he can never be bothered going through. I didn’t want to be that girl – the one who gets her own set of keys and suddenly starts making all these demands.

            I’ve begun to just expect the shoes to be there, big and dirty, waiting for me to come in and trip on them. I’ve prepared for the eventuality of always having to step over them, but it’s such an odd little thing, so easily fixed if he would just put them away instead, that I sometimes forget.

One day, I trip over them and almost fall on my face. He must hear me curse from where he’s sprawled on the couch because he asks if I’m okay.

I can’t help myself. ‘Why the fuck do you always leave your shoes at the door?’

            He doesn’t answer. I can hear the football game he’s watching as I walk through the hallway and into the living room.

            ‘I tripped on your shoes,’ I say again. ‘Who leaves their shoes right at the door anyway?’

            He laughs, eyes still on the screen of his computer, feet prompted on the coffee table, where a pot of half-eaten pesto pasta goes cold. He knows bowls exist, but he doesn’t want to have to wash both the bowl and the pot, so he skips the serving part of most recipes. I’ve watched him eat steak straight out of a pan.

            ‘Just watch where you’re going,’ he says now.

            I frown. ‘Why don’t you just put them away?’

            He shrugs as a response, eyes still on the screen. I don’t want to be the girl that doesn’t let him watch his football because of something as small as a pair of shoes at the door of a house that isn’t even mine, so I shrug too.

            The next day, the shoes are there again, abandoned on the stupid carpet, and this time, I trip and hurt my ankle. He’s in the kitchen, making tea and toast, and I can’t help but get mad. I don’t know if I have the right to ask him to just put his shoes away, so I just explain why they shouldn’t be there in the first place. He’s quiet while I do, like a kid being lectured by his mother.

            ‘Did you put them away?’ he asks eventually.

            I want to laugh. ‘No.’

            ‘Why not?’

            ‘They’re not my shoes, and I’m not the one who left them there.’

            He sips from his tea, says, ‘Why not just put them away though?’

I think he’s missing the point, but later that night, when I get up to use the bathroom, I walk by the front door, where the shoes are still big and dirty on the carpet, and kick them into the corner, where they stay for the rest of the night.

            The next day, the shoes are at the door again, and again, I trip. It’s just a small inconvenience this time, nothing compared to the soreness I felt for hours the day before, but the frustration comes all the same. I go up to my boyfriend, this time hunched over the messy desk in his bedroom doing work for one of his classes, and I spit it out.

            ‘Your shoes.’ I feel stupid bringing it up again, but I can’t help it. I don’t want to sound upset, but I can’t help that either.

            ‘What about them?’

            ‘What the fuck is wrong with you? We’ve talked about this. You left them at the door again.’ I don’t want to raise my voice, but I do. Frustration gnaws away at me and all he does is sit there and look at me like he doesn’t understand a word I’m saying.

            I don’t think he does, so I explain. For hours, that’s all I do. It’s ridiculous that I have to, but I don’t know what else to do. I don’t think he does either, because he just sits there and looks at me while I do all the talking.

In the end, he says he’s sorry. Says he doesn’t want us to fight. I don’t either, but I tell him we have to. Couples fight. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just need him to understand why I’m upset. He says he does.

            He does, but every now and then, the shoes show up at the door, every time bigger and dirtier than the last, and every time I trip over them, sometimes skimming across the floor or bumping hard against the table with all the mail he won’t open.

We fight every time that it happens, or I do, and he listens. Sometimes, it goes for hours on end, stretching into the night, exhausting everything there is to say. Sometimes so loud, the neighbours come knocking.

I can never sleep after it happens, and it happens so often, I forget what a good night’s sleep even feels like. It becomes an itchiness I can’t help but scratch. I do it until it bleeds, and then I do it some more. Eventually, it takes up my whole day.

            One morning, as I leave to go to class, I hear the couple from the flat downstairs.

            ‘That’s the girl that’s always fighting with her boyfriend,’ the boy whispers. ‘She’s crazy. I honestly don’t know how he puts up with her.’

            ‘What do they even fight about?’

            I take my time opening the front door so I can hear his answer.

            ‘Shoes,’ he says. ‘It’s ridiculous.’

            Later that day, when I go back to the flat, I tell my boyfriend I want to break up. He takes it all in, and finally says he understands. For a while, I think he does, but a week later, when I stop by to pick up my things and give back his keys, the shoes are still there, big dirty shoes sprawled on the front squared carpet with the words hakuna matata on it.

Mónica Ferreira first began publishing stories on Wattpad, with one of her books garnering over 55,000 reads. In high school, she wrote and directed a play inspired by The Breakfast Club, and now writes for the Satire and Opine sections of Aberdeen University’s newspaper, ‘The Gaudie’.  Her short story, ‘In Which You Only Miss the Chances You Don’t Take’, won ‘Most Powerful Expression’ at the HelloGrads Content Makers Award Competition.