The tops, or uppers I guess, of the shoes I am looking at on the train are of a woven nature that reminds me of craft kits I used to get as Christmas presents from distant relatives or friends of the family. People erred on the side of craft, as I was a quiet, only girlchild, so I received many craft kits aimed at 9-12 year olds. The one I’m thinking of was a bag of fabric bands that were meant to be woven together to make things; mats, ropes, towels, purses. There came with the kit a book of designs, and a loom.

I remember how the loops would stretch to a point and then no further, the slightly uncomfortable sound when two bands were woven tightly against each other, almost a squeak. After a few years of stretching and weaving and dismantling, the elasticity would give, just like in your underwear. I re-purposed them as hairties for Barbie’s impossible-to-handle blonde curls.

Anyway, the shoes on the lady on the train are woven with all different colours, no apparent colour scheme. Like this potholder.

They are Mary Janes, I notice after a second glance. The woman’s tanned feet are showing through the gaps in the top of the shoe. Mary Janes are my favourite style of casual flat shoe but it’s hard to find a pair that is truly comfortable, because my instep is too high and the top strap of the shoe is often tight across the top of my foot.

This phrase — high instep — insists on galling me because how does a high instep, the bottom of the foot, translate to a taller top of the foot? The bottom and the top of the foot should have no relation to one another, says my stubborn head, refusing to talk sense.

Do you ever have things that you think about sometimes that require you to manually twist your brain around to understanding them, even though they are perfectly obvious and you are fairly quick in other areas of thought? For example, I can do math in my head most of the time and carry on a conversation in French if I have to, but I have to stop every single time I want to spell the word occasional and write it several ways to see which is correct. Occasional? Occassional? Ocaaaaasional? Not that last one. I’m exaggerating. But thinking about my feet as one piece, not two, is one of my mental hurdles.

When I write it down or stop for a minute to really consider it, I can picture the human foot like a flexing chunk of earth; the arch rising and the peak rising with it. Feet undulate, that’s why we don’t just flop around like ducks. And yes I know the earth doesn’t undulate unless it’s quaking.

How did I end up with high insteps anyway? I am sure I didn’t have this problem until I was at least 30. It’s not as if I wore high heels and ruined all my foot bones. Anyway, the shoes she is wearing are the kind of Mary Jane I would choose; a stretchy band over the top of the foot so your flesh doesn’t get painfully bisected or dug into or made to bleed.

But the soles, the soles are what drew my attention in the first place, or rather the way the soles and uppers bear no relation to one another, as though I was a shoe designer for a day and refused to see that the top and the bottom of the shoe / foot should be connected in some way. The soles are those of running shoes, all crevices and soft, absorbant light rubber. But their colour! Tie-dye and acid flashback and technicolour vomit, all of which wouldn’t be so bad if not for the glaring mismatch with the fabric potholder upper part of the shoe.

In grade four? five? I had a pair of shoes I loved dearly, as they were Keds, and in fashion, but then a mean girl said it looked like someone had vomited on my shoes (they were patterned with colours) and I was reminded that I’d never be cool. So I might be overmuch sensitive to shoes that remind me of vomit and thus, of my own failings.

I couldn’t look away from this lady’s feet until it was time to get off the train.

( these are not them but wow.)

( these are closer but imagine the sole with more disco.)

(the longer I look at images of “woven fabric upper mary jane running shoe” the more entranced I am. Get me off this train!)