I wave, but Alice doesn’t wave back. We have known one another for years, have lived together, shared meals, sat in morning meditation for a what feels like a decade, so her not waving back now, means we must both walk past one another in an ear breaking; mind messing; blood rushing silence of knowing we aren’t going to be friends again today.
Unable to bear to watch her look through me, like I am empty of meaning, less than an obstacle, I lower my eyes to the ground. My eyes watch her boots come level with mine. My eyes observe how both sets of boots are far more similar than they are different; both sets encrusted with mud, both fiercely functional, waterproof, nut kicker style boots. Boots that say ‘we don’t care what people think about our footwear, what people, think women like us are like’, our boots, come side by side now like family members, sharing paths as well as treads, treads as well as traits, traits which are busy with metaphoring how strong we show ourselves to the outside world.
How deliberately innocent we are of that world’s expectations. How coherently we choose to ignore those ridiculous, dangerous expectations; how ignoring them is our sign to each other how capable we are to choose for ourselves good footwear, safe, strong, easy to run in shoes that will take us as far as we need to go. Far and away from the people who demean and demand from us, to any desires of us to be nice girls. These not nice girl shoes stride us through fields, clamber with us over ditches and beyond sexism, beyond patriarchy to here. Here and these valleys of our remote location, our separate space, out of their way, out of harms way in a place to repair our wounds, our tiny piece of land where we can rest, rest and find our feet again.
Our feet that have walked us so far away from the traps and prisons kept ready for us, feet armored in shoes, in strong, solid, reliable walking kit that we proudly bought and paid for by ourselves. So proud that somehow we have out-prouded one another, used our boots to keep on walking, keep walking even now away from one another.
Alice has turned to see my boots, my body and my soul as different again from hers, different to how I once was to her. I have fallen short of her expectations in some irreconcilable way, fallen foul of her invisible trip wire, the trip wire that she uses to keep the boring and bad people away, she has found me guilty of being the ‘other’ that she needs to separate herself from, that category of person no longer entitled to her friendly wave or company.
Alice’s boots disappear out of my line of sight, boots once used to walk towards one another as home, now stomp away, leaving me to hold tightly silent to my thumping heart. Trying hard to stop the gut wrenching of distress that these petty close encounters bring. To stay brave even in the face of these daily ignorings. I try not to feel it, try to pull myself together by some handy bootstraps to remain a militant believer in Alice’s freedom to walk on by, even in the face of how hard it is for me to bear the loss. The heart breaking loss of smiles and waves and looks, from the lips and hands and eyes of a long loved, now greatly missed, even when she is only a few feet away, good friend.
Maj Ikle, 49, women and girls rural welsh community
(where she’s lived for the last 14 years and proud to be solar powered!)