I am trying to break in a new pair of Dr. Martens. The last time I really, in earnest, attempted this, I was probably fifteen and my relationship with pain was different. It isn’t that I didn’t feel it, but what I felt more often seemed inevitable and inescapable: popping handfuls of ibuprofen in our theatre’s green room while sitting out the hours between a matinee and an evening performance of a high school play, my body one tight fist of cramps, punching and punching.
I was convinced that I could live through things; I was sanguine with the temporary nature of suffering. Probably because I did not suffer all that much. I am still very lucky that way, but of course time piles on, and the pain accrues like a sticky residue on your bones. You might pick it up in small amounts, but over time, it builds.
So anyway, I’m a bigger baby now, is what I’m saying, than when I was an actual baby. I put the boots on last night for ten minutes, and felt it for an hour afterwards. (I don’t really remember how they’re supposed to fit pre-break-in period, either, which is it’s own challenge. What’s the reasonable pain, and what is too much? In our current national environment, my gauge for this questions is absolute wingdings; I have no idea.)
Future blisters not withstanding, I am excited to have a good pair of boots again. It makes me want to leave the house at eleven p.m. and drive down the highway to an all-night cafe near Greenlake (Seattle people know the one), and drink coffee and eat french fries and draw pictures with crayons that they will let us tape up on the walls. Sometimes we got milkshakes or omelettes, though the milkshake machine was almost always broken (or anyway, the surly waitstaff almost never wanted to make milkshakes.) (I can only imagine a few specific people ever working at this place; it feels like, if I went back now, they would inevitably still be there, especially the tall blond guy with holes in his t-shirt; he was the meanest one. He never made us a milkshake. He rolled a pack of cigarettes in his shirtsleeve and pegged his jeans before that was a thing, or maybe now I’m just imagining the cast of The Outsiders? He definitely wore a ratty old cardigan, and we all loved him. We were not in love with him, but we loved him the way you love anyone with a rotten attitude who nonetheless suffers you to live.)
All my clothes smelled so much like cigarette smoke in high school because of this place; it didn’t matter if you weren’t smoking, you would still smell like it. That was the scent of youth, of having nothing to do but not being bored. Driving home I would be so tired I would be nearly drunk with it, despite all the caffeine in my system. I would go north on Aurora at 1am, 2am, and there would be almost no traffic, I’d hit all the lights. I would park at home, between the house and the garage, and unlock the door that had an unflattering photo of my mom taped up, with devil horns drawn on her head in red ballpoint pen, because a friend of ours had been having a disagreement with her and she never took anything down. I would creep across the kitchen linoleum, the teal carpet in the dining room and living room that I still remember being put in when I was maybe ten years old (before that, the carpet was beige and so much worse; the kitchen and bathroom were carpeted too; they were carpeted in paisley, and the appliances were red. The seventies really happened and my childhood home was proof). I would walk up the wooden stairs as quietly as possible, which was never all that quietly, and put on music in my bedroom (blue carpet, with bright vomit stains from baby vomit still present; it was never changed), and sit on the floor in front of the space heater and unlace my boots, and my feet would feel light, the way you feel after taking off a heavy backpack.
I don’t remember breaking the boots in. I remember wearing them. I remember them being mine. And they will be mine again. Oh yes, they will be mine.