Overheard

This morning, I found myself walking behind a single person in the hallway, and with every step, I heard the corduroy swish of said person’s trousers. I have yet to meet anyone who can walk silently in corduroy–no matter if one has thighs the circumference of a stork’s shins, one walks loudly in the cozy, ridged fabric. Blue jeans, too, have their quiet sound, though perhaps not if they are old and worn enough. There is little opportunity for me to wear that perfect, butter-soft, decaying denim at work, though. Perhaps if my office were not a scant hallway from the college president’s, I might be so bold.

The sounds of walking aren’t a revelation–how many odes have been written on a leaf’s crunch or gravel’s grate or a new snow’s peculiar hush, and how many have I written myself, of course–but indoors, they are different. No one waxes about the flapping slap of flipflops springing from carpet to heel, or about the purposeful clack of someone’s sensible business shoes on tile. I remember high school: the principal’s shoes–always the boxy shine of professional’s leather, always with heels so dense and hard that they exploded on the linoleum like little firecrackers as she walked–harbingers of doom. She couldn’t catch a soul at anything because we heard her coming for miles.

I remember that, and I dress as quietly as I can. I walk toe to heel on the short indoor-outdoor nap of the halls. My arms do not swing in any jackety rustle. Sometimes I hear my trousers make their muted swish–not even corduroy, but polyester and wool blends–and I slow myself. I take more care. I do not think I am visibly bow-legged in my efforts, but I suppose I couldn’t see myself to know. I wear boots with thick rubber soles or sneakers cut low and close to my feet so that when I am trying at all, I can turn any corner with surprise.

I don’t know what I’m hoping to sneak up on, but I certainly won’t find it if it hears me coming.

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