by Kirah Brouillette
I wore a pair of Ridiculous Boots to my January writing residency in New Hampshire’s North Country, near Mt. Washington. It was -22 on the day I left Portland for Whitefield, so I packed an emergency bag, my snowmobile suit, my insulated Kamiks and a balaclava, too, just in case.
But with their black velvet uppers, waxed laces and three inch platform heels that made me walk extra tall, my Ridiculous Boots didn’t fit in. They looked more like the kind of thing a retired stripper might wear, not a country mom from Maine.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist them.
“These boots are ridiculous in the best way, aren’t they?” I asked my husband as I was walking out the door. I pointed at the Ridiculous Boots. I hadn’t worn anything like them in years. He didn’t respond, so I hunched over and folded myself up small, lifting my right foot up so he could see the boot better.
With his nose scrunched, like something stank, he glanced down, then back up at me and said, “Yep, totally ridiculous.”
I couldn’t tell if he was joking. His face was inscrutable. We used to share a bone dry humor, regularly passing jokes between us. But now our exchanges felt vaguely—if at least equally—injurious instead.
Ok, fine. I thought. You’re right.
They were not the kind of boots a mom like me should wear. Were they the kind of boots I used to wear? Well, yes. But neither of us had seen that version of me in almost a decade.
That woman hitchhiked. That woman lived on some distant tropical island, wearing nothing but a bikini and muddy Chacos while she macheted a fresh mountain path down from the road to the secret beach below so she could write in peace, away from tourists. That woman had abs, sometimes.
Instead, I was a woman who drove a drastically used Subaru. I was a woman who sometimes shopped at the Dollar Tree for deals on crackers and binge-watched Bravo reality shows when she was depressed. Instead of a machete, I used a broom to clear a crooked path through piles of clean laundry and Legos in the hopes of liberating the last chocolate chip cookie for myself before my kids found it. I was pear shaped.
But I bought The Ridiculous Boots anyway, on a whim, when I saw them recommended for me on Amazon.com while I shopped for diaper wipes and Pine Sol. They were Important Boots, too, I realized as I added them to my cart. They were the first high heels I’d allowed myself to own since marrying my husband, a respectably-sized man of 5’7—next to my 5’9 ¾—whose height had become a symbol for our incompatibility..
I was, after all, well-trained from a young age to believe my height was problematic for everyone around me.
“You’re too tall,” my mom used to say to me when I was a girl “What will the boys think?” Then she’d pinch a soft hunk of my lower back between her bony finger tips, causing me to shout out in pain and bend down to her level where she would hiss into my ear, “Stand up straight if you’re going to be so tall. Ridiculous.”
Luckily for me, The Ridiculous Boots made me taller than I’d been in years, so I could fall harder than I had in years.
They say that emotions, particularly those related to trauma of any kind, are stored in the body like a computer stores information on a hard drive—your body systems retain a physical copy of the painful memory, like an imprint. Over your life, this pain can resurface accidentally, in unusual or destructive ways if it’s not brought out and healed with intention. And it’s not always old pain, either. Even the most recent and delicate emotional trauma can trigger a systems collapse.
When I bought my Ridiculous Boots, I already knew this theory well. I was intimate with the draining, dramatic process of releasing trauma from the body. In my own daily yoga practice—something I’d used to heal the PTSD my childhood left behind—I’d learned first-hand how unearthing buried emotions through movement could cause a physical illness to erupt alongside the healing. After all, I’d spent most of the previous two years (as my marriage struggled to survive) chasing the symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematous, a disease my rheumatologist partially blamed on “unresolved systemic stress.”
I wasn’t thinking of any of this later on that week in New Hampshire, when I stomped out of my peer workshop one morning, fuming over an exchange with a teacher that had reminded me of arguments with my husband, my mother. I stomped so hard and so thoughtlessly that my Ridiculous Boots and their sky high heels skipped a beat, and slipped, sending me down.
As I crashed to the floor and my chin bouncing off the hardwood, I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t thinking of the heavy sadness in my marriage that weighed each doomed footfall I’d taken before I fell. I wasn’t thinking of all the broken promises we’d made to each other when my knee took my weight and made a loud crack. I wasn’t thinking of how afraid I was of a life alone when I felt those long-held, bitterly hot emotions in my chest burn their way up and out as tears.
And once they started, they could not be stopped. All I could do was think, then. So I sat surrounded by friends and mentors with one leg hefted onto a pile of pillows and covered in bags of ice while I cried out all the stories: the mean mom stories, the sad state of my marriage stories, the personal failure stories, my fears for the future stories.
After a while of all that crying, something miraculous happened: I felt better. Even my knee. So I laced up my Ridiculous Boots and with the help of friends, kept walking tall.
Kirah Brouillette is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.