We drove up to my boyfriend Anthony’s cousin’s farm one Friday night after a long day at work. I was working at a university 30 minutes down the road from my apartment and since the spring sun was in its purest form, I’d taken to walking to work every day. It was a great way to get vitamin D and work on my tan. It was also an almost effortless way to raise my step count and reduce my waist line.
That particular Friday had been a dress-down day at my school, so I opted for my black ripped jeans, a flowy white t-shirt and my black Adidas originals, with white stripes. I loved those shoes. I had gotten them back in 8th grade, after surviving all of 7th grade without a pair, even though all of the other kids in my class had them. When I finally got them, I appreciated them so much that I kept them forever.
When I put them on that morning, it was purely out of convenience. I needed comfort for the uphill stretch of my walk. They were actually in pretty good shape for 16-year-old shoes, with only minor tears in the back. I’d actually forgotten all about the fact that I had worn them to a music festival the weekend before, and that those shoes had faithfully protected me from the mud and the rain across the three days at the festival. I’d forgotten that I’d made a mental note to wash them when I’d gotten home, now six days prior.
I’d even forgotten that I’d forgotten to wash those shoes until seated in the little house on the farm, when Ant’s cousin Rhett asked aloud not more than ten minutes after we’d arrived, “did the kitten fart? Because it smells really bad in here.”
Then I remembered. Oh my God. My shoes. My muddy, sweaty shoes that I had worn for twelve hours straight that day. They sat in the far corner of the kitchen, beside the door of the tiny room in which we sat. I should have owned my stink in that moment. I should have laughed it off and moved the offensive shoes to the porch; problem solved. I wish I could be that kind of person. But I’m not, not yet. Not in a room full of semi-strangers. So I sat quietly, pretending not to notice, hoping the kitten would take the blame and the open window on the door would aerate my shoes.
About an hour later, the stench hadn’t quite subsided. When Rhett got up to go the sink, he caught a fresh whiff of it, and he asked his girlfriend Paula, “no seriously. Did the cat shit somewhere?”
“No, I think someone’s feet stink,” Paula replied in a low voice. I cringed, but pretended not to notice. They were onto me. I hoped they would simply blame Ant’s old brown shoes that were closer to them than mine. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I casually placed my purse over the shoes, hoping to trap in the stench.
The worst part was that we were sleeping over, and I hadn’t brought an alternative pair of shoes. We stayed up late into the night drinking beer and chatting about life, all the while my shoes silently fragranced the room. Even the next morning, when I quietly woke up early and slipped them outside, the odour had only just barely reduced. It was like it was ingrained into the cushion of the soles or something. They would get an intensive washing when I got home.
Luckily, I’ve watched enough sitcoms in my life to be able to craftily come up with quick solutions. Desperate times call for desperate measures. For the entirety of the next day, I kept my shoes off while I was outside, and I left the shoes on the porch during lunch. Nobody spoke of any foul smells, but I knew the evening would be my real challenge. In the early afternoon, I excused myself to go for a drive. Nobody questioned it.
I drove to the nearest Walmart to buy a new pair of shoes and some fresh socks. The only black running shoes that resembled the ones I had been wearing were a size 6, which were about half a size too small, but the material looked as if it would stretch. They were better than nothing. And I didn’t really have any other choice. I was in too deep. In the parking lot, I slipped on fresh socks before forcing on my new shoes. I drove with the car’s air conditioning blowing directly at my feet, to avoid any repeat occurrences. I left my Adidas in the car and pretended that I hadn’t just bought a new, scent free pair of shoes. Having them discover that might have been more embarrassing than the smelly shoes themselves.
When I got back to the farm, I walked around more confidently. The foul aroma no longer haunted me. The rest of the day went swell.
That evening, just as I was about to pat myself on the back for being so forward thinking and wringing myself out of this potentially humiliating situation, it was time to say goodbye. We hugged Rhett and Paula respectively and thanked them for their hospitality. We turned to leave, and I was two steps away from getting away scot-free when Rhett reminded us, “make sure you have everything! Alexis, you got your black Adidas shoes?”
Inside the house, I heard Paula scoff.
Damnit. They knew. Of course they knew.
I thought to myself bitterly, “well, that stinks.”