The Beginning: Nicole Millers

A first of many stories of #theshoesofsanfrancisco #NicoleMillers #lostsoles 

I moved back to San Francisco in the fall of 2012 to attend graduate school. My previous time living in San Francisco, I had the luxury of owning a car. I rarely took transportation, and walked only when needed. This time around, I am without a car, making the daily public transportation amongst hundreds of others in the city. I also walk daily. I walk around in my neighborhood, the Excelsior, and numerous other parts of the city.

During my three years back, I have encountered a strange observance of abandoned items on the streets. Most of the time it is shoes. Abandoned by their wearer, a sole shoe lies on the sidewalk, on top of brick ledge, resting in the dirt of a planted tree. The types of shoes are endless: high heels, boots, baby Crocs, loafers and tennis shoes. If I’m really lucky, there will be a pair left together. I always wonder about these left shoes. Why were they left behind, and what was happening at the moment they were abandoned? Why the one shoe?

The following is the first in a series of stories from the voice of those left on the streets.  

Nicole Millers on 20th and Folsom

We remember the day that Jolene unwrapped us from the box. Her mother had bought us for her new job as a junior copywriter for a tech startup in San Francisco. Growing up in a small town of Oregon, Jolene was eager to spread out her wings in the city. Her baby blue eyes bubbled, and a smile broke across her face when she saw us. We tend to have that affect on people.

Her mom found us at a local outlet store, couldn’t believe she had found Nicole Miller’s under $60, we were insulted at this, but we assumed we were labeled improperly. Not to mention, what were we doing at this sad, pathetic, little outlet anyway? Again, clearly we were shipped there by accident.

We were the most prestige pair of shoes that Jolene had ever owned. She kept us safely stored in the box we had come in, away from the commoner shoes, the Payless and Target types. When Jolene arrived to San Francisco, she placed us upon her new shoe rack where she could admire us each time she opened her closet.

We gave Jolene a confidence as she traveled on BART, MUNI, and walked the streets of her new neighborhood in the Tendernob. Even though she was terrified of being alone in the city, we gave her the assurance that she did belong, that she was part of this bigger universe, that she was someone that was noticed, she had a purpose here.

Jolene eventually began to feel comfortable in her San Francisco life. She began to neglect our care, even placing us on the floor of the closet instead of the rack. Her shoe collection began to grow with other designers, and we got shoved to the back of the closet, our box discarded, the nerve of her!

Occasionally, Jolene wore us when she was feeling nostalgic for her humble beginnings. It had been a long day in the office, and her co-worker convinced her to come out for drinks. She knew of a bar not too far away, just a twenty minute walk, and she would even buy the first round. The Homestead was a great neighborhood bar, one where everyone was family, throwing peanut shells on the floor. Jolene was really pushing it with us by stepping on these filthy carcasses.

After a few rounds of whiskey, Jolene was stumbling along the streets with her co-worker back to BART. She wanted to feel the freedom of the cement on her feet, the cold concrete, the grime and flesh of the city on her skin. She took us off for a minute and began to dance on the sidewalk with her arms reaching for the fog that loomed atop her. At that moment, a man wearing nothing but stained sweat pants popped out from a corner, and started yelling in her face. “You’re always stealing my cigarettes bitch!” He swung his ash-covered arms and spit at her direction. Jolene began shrieking and lost her balance. Her co-worker grabbed her by her elbows and dragged her down the street as the man pulled his piss stained pants down and shook his fist at them.

So, here we lie, hoping that someone will pick us back up and find life in us once again. Just, not that man in the droopy purple sweatpants, please. 

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