Don’t ask why we were in Taco Bell. We never go to fast food joints, and when it comes to Mexican food, there are so many taquerias in our small California town that there’d be no reason to go to Taco Bell. But there we were at the Taco Bell on Center Street, sitting on metal chairs on the leafy patio, on a cool fall day, and this guy comes up to our table. Shifty-eyed, skinny, wearing saggy jeans, a faded Oakland A’s t-shirt, and royal blue athletic shoes, showy. Nikes I guess. They had that boomerang symbol on the sides. “Want to buy some shoes?” he asked us. I was confused. Why was he asking us? Were our shoes out of date? Mine were New Balance, comfortable, nothing fancy. I thought of them as a recent purchase, but that could mean five years old. My husband’s were whatever running shoes were on sale at Big Five.
The guy looked both ways and repeated his question.
“Hey, do you want to buy some shoes?” This time he lifted one foot and wagged it. “They’re brand new. I only put them on to walk here.”
They did look pretty new. He wasn’t carrying anything. It wasn’t clear what he was going to walk home in if we bought his shoes.
“Size 10,” he added.
“No, man. Thanks,” my husband said.
The guy nodded sadly, as if it was what he expected. He looked around for another customer, and then walked away, treading lightly, as if his feet weren’t quite touching the ground.