[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Sheila Heti, has ended. Original price: $4. Final price: $77.51.]
I never thought of leaving Cape Cod. I imagined I would live there my entire life long. But then Jack and I busted up — when I finally got the courage to leave — and I thought the smartest thing to do would be to start up a whole new life elsewhere. But where? Where was as beautiful as the Cape?
I figured I’d bring a little reminder of home with me, wherever I ended up, and I looked in newspapers and called people I had known from long ago, trying to figure out where to settle. I ended up in Denver for some reason. Basically, an old friend from grade school encouraged me to come.
I bought the shoe a few days before leaving home, and it came with me in my purse. Now I keep it on the mantle of my white-walled apartment where I placed it after unwrapping it from the Kleenex that first night.
But I haven’t settled in here. I long for home; the smell of the sea. Was I wrong to leave? Perhaps I was a coward. If ever that jerk moves out of town, I’ll head back there at once. But I’m afraid of being there in the same city with him. I too much liked sleeping with him every which way. I’d fall right back into his bed, where it was always so good. But there was misery in every other part of our lives together.
When I look at the shoe all I can think of is the glass slipper that finally fit Cinderella’s foot. Cape Cod fit me like no other place in the world, until Jack, that irritating grain of sand; that erotic burr, as I called him to Martha.
For thirty-two years I gazed at that sky, uncomplaining. I gazed at the sea through all different windows; windows in whatever place I’d rented near the shore. In Denver, I have no home among people. I am a stranger to the entire world; to this Denver sky.
The longer I stay here, the more lonesome I become. I really took my life on the Cape for granted. I experienced the beauty of life there without even thinking about it. Who knows? Maybe that is true happiness; to be made happy by something and not even be conscious of how happy it’s making you. Maybe you have to not know it’s acting on you in that way to even feel it in the first place. And you don’t even know you felt it till it’s past.
Sometimes I leave a penny in the shoe, those days when I’m feeling a little better about my life here in Denver; a little less displaced. But those days when my entire soul stretches toward the Cape, I take the penny out and leave it near the shoe. I tell myself, You are the penny, Doreet. You will now forever be at a distance from that really simple thing that held you loosely, but securely, with love.