Yet never one told all you are --
It was as though a net of words
Were flung to catch a star;
It was as though I curved my hand
And dipped sea-water eagerly,
Only to find it lost the blue
Dark splendor of the sea.
- Sara Teasdale, "The Net"
I always view grocery shopping as an adventure. I love finding a new flavor of potato chips, admiring stunning packaging designs, and rolling my cart as if I were a tulle-trimmed skater along the tile floors. This past weekend had been particularity exciting; I found a pair of Hello Kitty shoes. Now, I like Hello Kitty, but other characters are more appealing to me (I'm not much of a pink person, besides). These shoes were black flats, with Hello Kitty's face sewed on as a patch over the toes.
I stopped the cart, gawked at them, and then check the sizes... children's shoes! Don't worry, dear readers. I was no deterred! The beauty of being short is that I can, on occasion, put my small feet to good use and do impossible things. I found the biggest size - four - and managed to slip them on with no problem. As I looked down at my feet, I was reminded of the Cinderella fairy tale. Her stepsisters tried to fit into her glass slipper but their feet were too big. I believe, in some variants, they even cut off parts of their feet to try to fit them into the slipper. I couldn't imagine cutting off my toes for these Hello Kitty shoes. But still, remembering that fairy tale put me in a bittersweet mood for the rest of the day.
Besides the small feet, I never used to associate myself with Cinderella. I didn't have stepsisters, or a stepmother, and probably did less chores than most children my age. One set of grandparents left the world early, so the remaining set, well, provided me with a grandmother who was better at finding coupons than changing a pumpkin into a coach. I wouldn't expect a stranger to crawl in through the window and change me into a girl ready for the ball. And - this is embarrassing - I never made friends with talking birds or mice.
But now that I'm older, I've found that I can understand Cinderella a little better. And acknowledge that, yes, I've done something that she had done.
Would you believe me if I said I left my glass slipper for the prince?
"She then rose up and fled, as nimble as a deer. The Prince followed, but could not overtake her. She left behind one of her glass slippers, which the Prince took up most carefully." - Cinderella
I've always felt that she left the slipper on purpose. Unless you're wearing flip flops, it's hard to just lost a shoe (without tumbling down the stairs and breaking a nose). She must have realized that, no matter how well of a time she had with the prince, she could never have hope of meeting him again without leaving a piece of her behind. You could say, in effect, that the glass slipper was a piece of her heart.
If you do believe me, then I'll tell you this: I made my slippers. Glass is too fragile, too transparent. Fur is too thick and soft. So when I reached for the materials that, I thought, would surely catch the prince's eye, I turned to paper and ink. I wrote until ink stained my fingers, until the text on the page transformed into a story wild with whale-song, lonely planets, and singing stars. The images shivered in the air like holograms, delicate as smoke, as I fashioned the tiny story-shoes around my feet. As Sara Teasdale writes, I had cast my net as best I could.
Rain drenched the walkways leading to the palace. I knew that if I wore the slippers, they would melt away like abandoned ice cream. So I kept them safe and warm inside my bag and trudged to the castle with sneakers. Water ran down my cheeks, clung to my hair, and when I stepped inside, no one paused to look at me. Unlike Cinderella, I had no gossip to precede me.
"There was immediately a profound silence. They left off dancing, and the violins ceased to play, so attentive was everyone to contemplate the singular beauties of the unknown new-comer." - Cinderella
I didn't dance with the prince either. After all, he was the one making the music. Bodies crowded the ballroom, bringing heat to the chilly, rainy evening. The music flowed into my veins and it felt, sometimes, like his voice whispered into my ears. When the ball ended, I stepped outside into the humid air; the rain passed away, leaving a trail of blurred lights and mirror-puddles. And I made sure, while holding my breath, to leave my slipper outside the castle gates. I kept the other one in my bag. A memento. Something to compare the other by if I woke up one morning the rhythm of a knock on my door.
I slept peacefully that night, awakening with the rags still clinging to my skin. The magical night seemed to be nothing but a dream, replaced my peasant thoughts like finishing homework, making breakfast, and finding quarters for my laundry.