When The World Ends, No One Is Looking At Your Shoes

The night the world ended, I was wearing the same pair of leggings for three days in a row. I met my friend at the bar, and I texted her first to see if it was socially acceptable to wear Birkenstocks outside in November. The backs of my heels were rubbed raw from breaking in a new pair of Doc Martens, and these sandals were all I could bear.

“The world is ending, Liz. No one is looking at your shoes.”

The morning after the world ended, we woke up hoping somehow things had changed, that we had imagined this collective panic, paranoid on our bad trip, but that that’s all it was, a psychedelic detour, and all we needed was a cold shower and coffee to shake off the horror. I smoked my first (and last) cigarette, and it burned my throat and made me gag. It made me throw up, but all that came up was watery acid. I wondered how the hell we got here.

When the world was almost rubble, when everything felt like it would dissolve if we touched it, I posted a sentimental message about feeling heartbroken and unsure how to teach the small children to whom I report every week. Someone comments and warns me not to “brainwash” the students too much with my “politics”. That is not the point, and it never was. Another white man tells me how to feel; I could just scream.

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Bandages and Neosporin have almost restored my feet to their healed condition, but there’s still some tenderness when I walk. I rub the roundness of my heels, trying to soothe them. Friends, and friends of friends, and others still, tell us we need to move on, stay strong, fight for justice, mobilize, help the underdog, go to class because the world needs more educated women fighting the power. Nothing seems convincing enough, though in theory I know there is truth there, and resilience. I know it’s what we need. I stay in bed as long as I possibly can.

When s*&# hit the fan, countless people advised me to “just make Aliyah!”, and I wonder if they realize there are other people in the world besides Jews. I wonder if they know of any way to be with those in pain, without detaching themselves from it, without feigning wisdom or false hopes in the form of an international flight to escape. I wonder what would happen if more people just let us sit there, stewing, waiting to take action, at least until the debris settles.

I wonder if there is a way for people to truly see pain, even pain they do not understand, even pain the person experiencing cannot understand. I wonder if anyone really was looking at my shoes, while I cheered “Go Blue!” at my home state, unironically, as the polls came in, as I took a sip of my friend’s gin and tonic and the bubbles tickled my tongue. I wonder where we go from here.