By Joseph J Kozma
There I was, sitting on a black iron bench, placed on solid concrete foundation, in front of the cathedral. A little ahead of me a row of linden trees blocked, partially, the vision of the boulevard.
There I was. Centuries were bearing down on me. I was contemplating my shoes as they reflected the rays of the noonday sun.
My shoes were polished just a few hours earlier. It was summer; there was no rain, nothing to disturb the living black turning to silver as I moved my feet.
The story was simple. Every ritual is simple. If it were not it would be a chore, a production. Polishing shoes was a daily ritual. When I was still going to school, after breakfast and before leaving the house, I had to polish my shoes. My father saw to that. It was his privilege, I suppose, but I was sure that he thought that it was one of his fatherly duties. His shoes were always shiny like fresh plums before they turn into prunes. He must have picked up this habit while in the service. There it was a highly refined ritual. For me it turned out to be one too.
There I was sitting on a black iron bench well-antiqued by the elements. It has met many sitters prior to me. I wondered how many of them were thinking about the cathedral, about the energy that it took to plan it, how many backs were aching or broken while building it, how heavy were the bricks and stones that supported the statues of the apostles during the centuries. And I was wondering how many admired their polished or unpolished shoes.
I was waiting for a friend. We would meet and, in a while, would tell our stories and tales or just watch what was going on down on the boulevard.
He arrived. Obviously the sun liked him because his face and his entire body smiled.
“HI”, he said. “Your shoes sure are shining. What kind of polish do you use?”
“Schmoll” I said. “Good polish, I use it once in a while. Look at my shoes”
I did. They looked like they were embalmed with cream of wheat cooked in coffee. That was a stupid comparison but many comparisons are stupid anyway. This was one for certain.
“Yeah, they need some scrubbing” I said.
“Polished shoes do not make one smarter, maybe just looking well to do. A few pennies spent on Schmoll can do that”.
There was very little I could say. I never thought that my polished shoes made me rich-looking or more photogenic or whatever else a pair of polished shoes can do for you. I moved my feet to do something when he remarked: “You don’t have to move your feet. Your shoes shine even when they rest.”
Down on the boulevard, a few young men, recent graduates from high school, showed off their identity by carrying elegant walking sticks and smoking cigarettes in foot-long holders. They were peacocks without colors. A few elderly people sunning on the benches in partial shade watched them and shook their heads. A few girls wearing straw hats with brims large enough to shade their shoulders walked by giggling. Otherwise the boulevard was quiet, at noon it usually is.