My dad bought them for me when I was 16. I distinctly remember agonising over the life-changing decision between the all-terrain or flip flop style in REI when I saw them; the simple black and navy blue flip flops with a little Teva tag, that would soon be poking proudly through my toes. Little did I know, those $18.00 flip flops would adorn my feet at through a myriad of momentous events spanning numerous landscapes across the world.
These days, they’re a dreadful sight, it’s true. The right sole has split in half and hangs off (when the superglue wears off), they are covered in dust and cobwebs from a cold winter of neglect in the under stair closet, the point of the straps is held together by a bread clip, the foamy bottoms are peppered with tiny stones embedded in the material and the sides are scattered with tiny teeth punctures from a little Pomeranian in Seattle named Zozo.
Usually around August, the aforementioned ‘superglue sole fix’ will start to wear off and leave me flapping raucously along as I go – likely because of the salt water sea that I can’t keep my feet out of. While this might make some feel a bit self-conscious, I don’t tend to notice how loud (and odd) I may seem – as that flapping sound just sends me back to the banks of the Ganges, where it inspired offers of a full repair to my ‘chapas’ by countless untouchables looking to make a couple hundred extra rupees. I never took any of them up on the offer though, preferring instead to use my time marvelling at the monkeys, hiking around the Himalayas, buying snacks for destitute children and embroidering bracelets with street vendors I had befriended.
When my Tevas leave that porcelain v-shape tan line across the top of my foot, it brings an impish smile to my face, reminding me of the catastrophic sunburn I was left to endure in the spring of 2012, after drifting through the winding alleys of southern Portugal in a flowery summer dress with no sunscreen… when I first felt Juno kick.
The paper thin soles are chock-full of tiny stones that have worked their way into the foam-like centre throughout the years, as if collecting mementos of my life along the way. Sometimes, I step a certain way and feel them pushing against the surface – reminding me of other eras in our life together. Did a small rock work its way in while I was wandering the halls of West Anchorage High School desperately hoping to be noticed by an undeserving 17-year-old named Ian Maury? Did I acquire another on that canoeing trip with my dad and brother around the Knik River, as I hung my feet lazily over the side, letting my Tevas drag along the bank? Maybe there’s one wedged in there from the time I was surprised with that weekend trip to Stonehenge. Could others be from my hiking excursions in the Bavarian Alps? There must be at least one from the seven summers I spent drifting along the Isar or frequenting the various beer gardens around Munich. Are any from that camping trip in Croatia, or the caves of Slovenia? Perhaps I gained a few standing beside the Acropolis, that time I ran away to Greece for five days? Is there sand from the beaches of Sardinia wedged in there as well?
It’s easy to take risks with a companion that offers pure, unadulterated support – without question or judgement. Those Teva flip flops have spent their life adjusting to every curve of my feet, moulding themselves simply to carry me along. To the untrained eye, they are in ruins and yet, it’s in this wreckage that my feet… and stories… have a home.