Shaming Shoes, By Mike Fiorito
When Gina LoRusso convinced me that we could win the King of Queens Dance contest, I pretended to give a shit about dancing so I could get into her pants. For as long as I could remember, my sisters had tortured me with disco songs like “Come to Me” and “Love to Love You Baby.” I’d grown up hearing Donna Summer, Gloria Gayner and The Bee Gees streaming from their bedroom.
I sat behind Gina in seventh grade at St Patrick’s Elementary School. Sometimes I quietly hummed disco melodies in her ear, tapping my foot to the beat. I made her laugh, almost getting her in trouble a few times. I would do anything to make out with Gina. At twelve, I had made out with every girl that I could, many in the back hallways, or stairways, some on the street, or in the park. I’d only flirted with Gina so far.
Sometimes I walked her home from school. She never gave me a kiss goodbye.
One time, as I gave her a hug and said goodbye just outside of the apartment complex where she lived, I met her older sister Donna.
“So I hear you like disco,” Donna said, leaning on the silver wire fence that lined the pathway to her building. Of course I didn’t object. I nodded in agreement. When I heard disco songs, I’d daydream about making out with Gina and running my hands all over her body.
Donna kept speaking but I didn’t pay attention. Drifting out of my fantasy I heard her say that Gina and I would be cute in a dance contest. Then she said that the dance school on Crescent Street was having a contest in a few months. She was an instructor at the school.
“You two are adorable together. You’ll win on looks alone,” she said, combing her hair with her fingers. Her hair was long, thick and black like a shawl. “I can teach you, sure.” It occurred to me that she didn’t mind having a conversation with someone who wasn’t speaking to her. She wore pink skin tights that fit her perfectly.
The next week, I walked to Gina’s house on the way home after school on Tuesday to talk about the dance contest. When I arrived, her father and mother greeted me in the parlor, looking me over. Her father’s eyes were big and saggy like he was tired of life. There was death in his eyes. He never said a word to me. Her mother asked me questions about school. What subjects did I like? Did I get good grades? She had black hair in a bun; shiny earrings hung down from her ears. The earrings were oversized and ugly.
Then Donna came out of her bedroom. She had on a tight red dress that made her backside look like a perfect tomato. Her shoes were shiny and had sparkles on them.
Pointing to my sneakers Donna said “You’ll have to get dancing shoes. The judges won’t like those.” I looked down at my sneakers. They looked foreign to me, as if worn by a homeless man. I couldn’t pick up my head to look at her after she said that.
That weekend, I bought a pair of Capezios at a shoe store on Steinway Street. They were bone white and pointy at the tip. The sole and the heel of the shoes were light brown. I would never let my friend Tony Gallo see me in these shoes.
The next time I went to Gina’s house, I said I had a surprise.
“For me?” asked Gina, looking at Donna.
“Kind of,” I said, now realizing that I seemed cheap for not buying Gina a present.
“Well, open it.”
When she saw that they were Capezios for me, her face dropped. But Donna’s repeating “you got them, oh my god, oh my god, you got them,” made Gina smile finally. Donna took them from my hands, looking them over, running her finger along the heels, like they were precious objects. She silently told to put them on, pointing her index finger at me. I sat down on a chair in the parlor and put them on. I tried to distract Gina and Donna by directing them to a painting on the wall when I noticed I had a hole in my sock. Then I slipped the Capezios on quickly.
I stood up, looking down my legs at the shoes on my feet. I hated them.
“Those shoes look cute,” Donna said. Gina shook her head agreeing. Their fussing over the shoes annoyed me.
“Now, let’s get to practice,” said Donna.
Donna counted our steps as we moved back and forth. “Put your hands on her waist,” she said. “Like this?” I asked like an altar-boy, making sure not to touch the wrong places, the places I wanted to touch. If my hands slipped down Gina pushed them up.
One time, during practice, Donna left the apartment to go to the store. Her parents weren’t home, either. We were dancing close, our cheeks touched. She turned her face quickly and her lips brushed across mine. “Oh sorry,” she said. I was hurt that she felt it was a mistake.
“Do you think I can give you a kiss?” I asked. Gina looked long and cautiously at me with her dark eyes. Her skin was smooth and brown. She was pretty. I argued with Tony Gallo saying that she was the prettiest girl in school. He disagreed. He thought Mary Malone was the best looking girl in school.
“Maybe you can kiss me after we win the contest,” she said. “Now let’s practice.” I put my hands on her little waist just above the curve of her hips. As we danced, I looked at the Confirmation photo of her that sat on the mantle above the old fireplace. In the photo, she clasped her hands tightly in prayer. Her perfectly round dark cheeks beamed from the white embroidered dress she wore. Her lips looked smooth and soft in the picture. I wondered how her lips would feel on mine.
“Just one kiss?” I asked.
She looked at the apartment door, took a quick look around just to make sure no one was there then said, “Ok, give me a kiss now.” She blinked, her eyes pools of bright brown in the light.
I leaned in to give her a kiss and opened my mouth. She had closed her eyes and only offered her closed mouth. I had been kissing girls in the back stairway, full open mouth kisses, so I was surprised by her move. I wound up landing a slobbering wet kiss on her lips. She opened her eyes.
“What was that?” she asked wiping the wetness from her face.
“I don’t know, I thought that maybe we would, you know, do a real kiss,” I said in a mopey voice. Didn’t she know how to kiss like that?
“Well, I don’t do that with boys, at least boys I’m not going steady with.”
To my mind dancing was going steady.
“Let’s continue practicing before my sister comes back,” she said, heaving a breath of air from her mouth, placing her hands on my shoulders. “Well?” she asked, waiting for me to put my hands on her. I was still stunned from rejection. Then I moved into position, my hands slid on her waist. Her hands alighted on my shoulders like delicate birds. She began counting and our feet began moving again. Looking down at the Capezios, I detested them with all of my guts. Stupid ugly shoes, dumbest piece of shit shoes I’ve ever seen. I wore them strictly to dance practice and then put them back in the box when we were finished and carried them home in a bag. I didn’t want to scuff them up on the streets is what I told Gina. And dancing was stupid, too. And I really hated the songs, though I knew them all word for word by now.
The following Tuesday, I came over. No one was home.
“Where’s Donna?” I asked.
“At the dancing school,” said Gina.
She held out her hands, motioning for me to come in closer to dance. I put my hands on her waist, then let them move down to just above her backside. She didn’t flinch.
“Now, let’s go, one, two, three, one, two, three,” she said, staring down at our feet. I moved my feet according to her instruction. As she looked down, I looked at her face, her lips.
“One, two, three.”
I let my hand drift down even further, now grabbing her bottom.
She reached down to move my hand up.
“You’re not moving your feet right,” said Gina. She was right, I was just getting aroused. I didn’t even know I had feet at that moment. I had hoped she would see the erection pressing against my pants.
“Could we try again?” she said.
“Can I have a kiss first?”
“If it will make you concentrate better,” she said, like she didn’t care whether we kissed or not.
“Yes, it will.”
“Ok, you can kiss me but not like last time,” she said.
“I won’t kiss you like last time,” I said, defeated but willing to take whatever I could get.
Her lips were moist and pink. As I looked at her pretty face, she closed her eyes. Then eyes still closed, she pursed her lips, then gently licked them.
“Well, are you going to kiss me?”
“Can you open your eyes while we kiss?”
“I don’t want to open my eyes.”
“It’s not the same if you close your eyes.”
“This was your idea,” she said.
“Can I put my hands here,” I said, placing my hands on her the curve of her backside.
“Not really, but do it already. My parents will be home any minute.”
Before she could close her eyes, I leaned in to kiss her, feeling the heat from her lips, both of my hands on her perfect round little rump. She closed her eyes, then opened them again, full and bright. I squeezed her rear harder now and rubbed into her pelvis. She started leaning into me, positioning her leg between mine. My erection was as big as a doorknob at this point.
For a few seconds the heavens had opened.
“Ok, ok,” she said, wiping the moisture off of her face, pushing me away. “Now, isn’t that enough?” She was flushed.
“Not really,” I said, my hands now in my pockets apologetically.
“Let’s get back to dancing,” she said.
“Ok,’ I said, sadly looking down at my Capezios, like this was all their fault.
I didn’t go to Gina’s next week. Two weeks later I showed up, but had to leave early, I said.
“You have to put the time into this,” said Gina. I wanted to leave early so I could meet Dolores afterwards. She did everything in the stairway with me. I didn’t tell her that I was meeting Dolores.
In the weeks that followed, the talk of the contest ceased. I went once or twice more, always meeting with Dolores afterwards. By the time I got to Dolores’s apartment, we’d hardly say hello after I knocked on her door. She’d see the heat rising from my reddened skin, take my hand and make out furiously with me in the stairway until I came in my pants.
Then I just stopped going to Gina’s after I realized there was not going to be any more kissing involved. I went straight to Dolores’s thinking of Gina all the time.
The last time I came home from Gina’s house, I stuffed the Capezios in the white box they came in and put them up in my bedroom closet.