Short Reads

Tracy- the woman with the crooked black shoes

Tracy was another inhabitant of Fitzmary 2, the ward I lived on for a year with Christine and various other apparently mad individuals.

She was a forked and angular woman, and would only ever wear black. Her whole wardrobe consisted of black dresses and heels, black skirts, vest tops and shawls which she would drape erratically around her when the temperature went down in the evenings.

I always thought Tracy was something of an enigma, more somehow than any of the other women I met and knew that year. I would always notice her mooching up and down the hallways with a kind of casual yet disjointed gait, her head always slightly tilted, and her eyes always darting around and moving far quicker than anybody else would care to keep up with or follow too far.

Whenever I happened to pass her she would have a sort of sardonic half smile on her face, and I always thought she looked faintly bird like. She reminded me of a crane or a stork somehow, her arms and legs were very long and thin, and her neck always bent at a slight angle.

Her hair was brown and non-descript, mid length and a touch straggly where she lied down a lot in her room. Her face was drawn and usually sleep rumpled, pale with shadows beneath her eyes; but her eyes themselves were elusively crafty.

She always seemed to be prowling the halls. She walked slow, and always hunched somehow, despite her small build; and if you looked at her for too long she would look up, meet your gaze and give you a nod back; a nod that said, “..what you looking at luvva?!”

She had good cheekbones, sharply angled but shadowed; and she would comically purse her lips as she smoked. She smoked a lot. In fact I think it was her endless shuffling walks between the smoking room and her bedroom which I remember the most. She would slouch into the small boxroom we sat in to inhale nicotine and kind of curl around a chair, and then suck on a cigarette whilst incessantly pulling whatever black over-shirt she was wearing that day around her pale, narrow shoulders.

I always wondered about her erratic ways. She was somehow both lazy and quick, always there long after you’d forgotten she was sitting right next to you. Her talk was usually as disjointed as her black clad limbs were long; but she could be quick on the uptake when she wanted to be. She seemed to slump for other peoples benefit, but then laugh to herself for the hell of it. “Why not?” was her response was to other people enquiring gazes.

The disparity between her entirely black attire and the cool and somewhat edgy appearance it gave her, and the hunched and shuffling way in which she walked and moved was, I always felt, best summed up by her crooked shoes. She always wore black heeled slingbacks, and they must have been her favourite shoes for many years because they were utterly battered and completely worn down, and both heels were slightly crooked.

It must have meant that her ankles were basically unsupported, and therefore her feet would fall left and right on those slanty, sloped bases. I always smiled a little bit when I saw her walking in those shoes- though thinking about it now they were probably the reason for the slow, slanting way she endlessly traversed the ward.

Because she always wore black, and was very thin and bony, I always assumed she was very tall; it was only on standing next to her by chance one evening in the dinner queue that I realised she was shorter than I was and much frailer than her black clothing made her appear.

I don’t know if she realised I was watching her and thinking this, but she slowly slung her head around and gave me a low gaze with that small smile which seemed to play around more in her own mouth than it came across to me on her face or her lips, and gave me a drawling greeting. “Whatsup chick?” When I smiled in return she held up her hands and struck the pose from Madonna’s “Vogue” music video, before lazily looking back down and swinging her eyes round onto one side of me.

I only saw her upset a few times, but in those moments she would talk as fast as her arms would wave and beat the air, and she could effectively insult a person without really saying anything understandable. Her hand gestures could be crucifying, and the one time I was on the receiving end I made sure to keep my eyes down and respectful the next day when I passed her shuffling onwards and back to the smoking room.

I never really knew very much about her, but I think this was how she wanted it. Her mind was as alien to me as her posture was crane like, and whilst her face could by sly and crafty I never knew exactly why she held onto those black crooked shoes. Perhaps they were the way she chose to hold onto the ground beneath her; the way that she related to the world and the things around her which kept her upright.

She just sucked in her cheeks and smirked at it all, endlessly rolling her eyes quietly at her own trajectory and then dropping one shoulder so that the people around her never saw her at her real height when she shuffled towards and past them.


2 thoughts on “Tracy- the woman with the crooked black shoes

  1. All I can say is when reading this, it felt like I was reading Saul Bellow.

    Perhaps they were the way she chose to hold onto the ground beneath her; the way that she related to the world and the things around her which kept her upright.

    There is an entire world in this sentence…

    Liked by 1 person

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