BOOTS by Mary Mae Lewis
At the age of twenty-one and having been living in the West Indies for six months, at temperatures of over forty degrees Celsius most days, I was longing for snow.
Previously I had lived all my life in Britain. The last two 1969-1971 in London. As a swinging sixties dolly bird, I had a penchant for leather clothes, especially micro mini-skirts and knee-high boots. The first gift to myself as a married woman had been a shiny black pair to go with my Emma Peel (The Avengers TV series) cat suit.
Now to my husband's chagrin, on this tiny scrap of an island Grand Cayman, seven miles long and four miles wide, I succumbed to obsessing about snow. When most other expatriate women were resorting to the gin bottle or extramarital affairs, or both, I found myself reading Jack London stories where hunters on sleds, pulled by huskies, braved the Canadian tundra. My dreams were high-jacked by fur clad damsels like Julie Christie playing Lara in the film Dr. Zhivago.
My addiction was fed by my North American colleague. (We were reporters for the local newspaper) who supplied me with copies of the winter New York Vogue, flown over to her regularly from the Bronx. Towering models in Cossack style fur hats and draped in furs, beaver and mink skins filled nearly every page. Exquisite leather boots sheathed their long legs. I honed in on the boots: tall ones, short ones, boots with zips, some with laces, some with tassels some without. I missed my boots!
When I mentioned to a Costa Rican friend that I was going on holiday to her country she insisted that I should buy leather boots there. Hand-made boots, made to measure, would cost only a few dollars. She knew of an up-market enterprise in San Jose, the capital, which specialized in “botas” for the rich and famous. “And not so,” she giggled looking me up and down. “You will get a perfect pair for fifteen dollars that will fit you like a snake skin.” I squirmed at the thought of reptile skin touching my calves, but none the less the thought of soft kid boots was enticing.
The “Zapateria Real” boot boutique was located on the first day of our holiday. I had with me a photograph, torn out of a Vogue magazine, of the type of boots I wanted. My Spanish at the time was not good. Even my “quiero” (I would like) and “Como eso” (like this) was met with hands flaying in the air and eyes rolling by the Mariachi looking proprietor. He rubbed his chin and smoothed his hand across his black moustache several times finally swiping his hand across his sweaty forehead before help came to hand. Like a lifebuoy slung to a drowning man a girl entered the shop. The American teenager claimed to be bilingual, so I relinquished my speech to her.
“Like this photo. The same colour,” My interpreter started. “But with no laces.” (Pero sin encajes.)
“Without laces? “the man's eye brows shot up.
“Yes yes, no laces,” I repeated. “Do you understand?
“Si si no encajes? Comprende usted?”
“Si si si senorita,” the barrel sized man indicated for me to sit down on a stool. He then whipped out a well-worn tape measure from his trouser pocket and draped it around his neck. The two ends nearly reached the floor. Without a word the man dropped to his knees and took hold of my right leg. I nearly fell off my perch! My husband sniggered from the door way. It was a boiling hot day and he looked in need of a cool drink. I only thought of the beautiful buff coloured boots I was going to have as the man meticulously took measurements; knee to heel, inside and out, width and length of foot. The man obviously knew how to handle a woman's leg. The details were noted in the order book, and I was given a carbon copy. I paid the full amount for the boots and was assured they would be ready in three weeks. I left Costa Rica with a smile on my face knowing my boots would be shipped by boat to our island forthwith, so long as there were no hurricanes to stop sailings but as this was not he hurricane season I had no worries that there would be a delay. The boots duly arrived in our post box at the George Town post office and were wrapped lovingly in white tissue paper and just the sort I wanted: suede tawny colour leather, cuban heel, a perfect fit and no laces; yes, no laces! HMMM.
Have you guessed? No laces but there were ten split pea sized holes down the front of each boot to put laces in!