I have an old pair of cowboy boots. They have ridden long in stirrups, rested heavily on gas pedals across entire continents, and crunched over countless other miles when I had neither horse nor car to my name. They are the relics of a life lived on two feet.
I look at them and read in their creases the stories of a hard-traveling life. I used to pull on those boots (or their predecessors) each morning together with a pair of jeans and head out into my life with a sure if clunky step. For years, it never occurred to me to move through the world in anything but those fancy-stitched boots. It was a sort of sacred uniform and the well-heeled platform from which I addressed the world.
I haven’t worn them as much lately except on trips to visit a friend who works with horses in the Argentine countryside. But, as I try to make peace with all the lives I have lived, those old boots have started to look good to me again. And the rain, as we have seen in recent days in Buenos Aires (where one never knows just how high the water will rise) calls for sturdy footwear.
Towards the end of one rainy day, with my feet still warm and dry thanks to those old boots, I caught up with some friends at a milonga. Without time to go home and change into city shoes for that eminently urban dance, I swept onto the dance floor in shit-kicking splendor.
Now, cowboy boots are drawn out into exaggerated points and this presented certain problems at first: I felt all pointy-tipped and was certain I would impale my partner. Friends teased me between songs by pulling imaginary pistols from make-believe holsters and then waving them above their heads like bandits. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught pin-striped strangers starring at my feet as I danced past.
After a while, I forgot about all this and got lost in the conversations, the music, the warm embraces. It didn’t matter that those boots were never intended for that dance, that they sang a different tune, craved a different geography. As I went from dance to dance and partner to partner, I could feel in my feet the horses, the V8 engines, the too-hot asphalt of a thousand journeys. But mixed in with them were the late nights, the feline footwork, the whispered seductions.
Once I got accustomed to their idiosyncrasies, my old companions did just fine out on the dance floor.
No matter how we try to subdivide it, it’s all one journey.