The boot was cold and scratchy NO hot and smooth WAIT tight and prickly. They were different boots. All the best Nazis live in Essex now. A man clucked in a green, stained camisole next to me, he’d cut syntactic expletive words from his vocabulary in protest of the media cajoling of hipster culture, but it had left him quite unsure of what he could and couldn’t say. He longed for Arizona, he said on boozy nights high on IPA, Arizona where he’d never been before but presumed the shoes fitted better and the happiness was more touchable, approachable, sustainable, all the ables you can imagine. We were in Boot Zone, not together, well, not by intention, a shop that sold boots. He was trying on a pair similar to mine, but buckled on different sides; perhaps one of us had them on the wrong feet, perhaps we’d had it wrong all along. There had been a protest out on the high street, returning Nazis who’d long left the area, returning to find things not as they remembered them. Penned-in in a pub by the tube station by police and protestors, they hung banners out of the windows, their messages coiled round themselves, flapping in the Saturday wind RIGHTS R W I ES. The girl was gentle with my foot, holding the sole in the palm of her hand as she looked up at me to ask my opinion on the suitability of this particular boot. I…She smiled as if she understood and disappeared into the storeroom to, I presumed, get another size or design. I turned to the man in the camisole and he was rummaging in his tote bag that had DO I LOOK LIKE I GIVE? branded on the side in red, like an ox’s backside. The Nazis had come to pick old scabs but were disappointed. Their old victims had slid up the 254 bus route to Stamford Hill. She returned, her hair now coiled up on top of her head revealing her neck, cradling in her arms another box. I imagined nestling myself in the box amongst the tissue like a dead crow or forgotten Christmas decorations, and she sensed my anxiety Don’t worry, you’ll find peace in your heart. The songs of the returned Nazis could just be heard above the shards of voices coming from the shopping centre, full of empty shops but brimming with market stalls selling new fingertips and replacement mirrors for mobile phones. The camisoled man leant over to me and said have you been to that new restaurant over the road? The one where they burn all the food? I wondered what this culinary philosophical development meant in the greater totality of meaning. Just one large cast iron oven in the middle he added, his arms dark with lines of hair. I flinched and grimaced, his thin moustache poking in opposite directions like a piece of copper coil. Thankfully the girl took my foot back into her hand and I felt that peace she had mentioned earlier. The camisoled man was at least consistent in his upwards curve of annoyance, if I could take the time to draw a graph, but he eventually rose to leave. I’ve got a pamphlet for sale if you’re interested, I was not but he flicked a copy of the Journal of Proletarian Nihilism #446 in my direction, burning my retinas with its smugness. A small woman with purple hair yelled into a megaphone, indignant if a little tired, it had already been a long day and the Nazis hadn’t had their march yet. If one was an anthropological soul, one may note that British Nazism had a lot to do with the male exhibition of bare chests; one only sees so many male nipples on the occasion of a British Nazi march, unless one frequently frequents locker rooms and I do not. I’d passed a gaggle of the Nazis on my way to Boot Zone on the corner of Shacklewell Lane where Oswald Mosley used to make his speeches, the Nazis taking group selfies outside the Nandos as if their idol had been reincarnated as fried chicken. I’d been particularly interested in one of them who was licking the lid of a yoghurt pot, but there was no pot in sight; he did this while pulling comically grim faces through the window to a family of four eating their lunch by the window. I found this rather playful, perhaps childlike, act so odd contrasted to the insignia he was flaunting across his chest. It was pathetic and predictable. Abdoulaye sold thermal socks outside Boot Zone, as well as mobile phone cases. The last few weeks his walk to work down the high street had been disrupted by various prospective candidates for the general election, inundating him with literature branded with their own gaunt faces
– Can we count on your vote?
– Why would you?
– Excuse me?
– Why would you count on my vote?
I’d pushed my luck beyond the boundaries of psychopathy and needed to make a decision on the boots. Garish, yes, shiny, quite so, but I definitely didn’t want them, but Boot Zone boots didn’t exceed £20 so I was confident in my jovial I’ll take them despite the fact that I didn’t know the price of them and I had a precarious job. At the till my hand touched hers as I reached for the box but she hadn’t scanned it yet, laugh on both sides, yes, it was funny wasn’t it, my gesture, my presumption that the transaction was completed. The Nazis were despondent on their train journey home, slightly drunk and quite gassy. It used to be easier than this, didn’t it? They lamented, in full denial mode, yearning for a time they could make promises they knew they’d never keep. Abdoulaye was a singer in a Mandinka band playing mostly at weddings but the work was drying up; no one could afford to pay their fee, which isn’t anything to do with their fee (it was competitive) but more to do with the increasingly greedy nature of the local venue owners who now could inflate prices as every Saturday they could host flea markets, where the possessions of dead people were sold to nostalgic, not-yet-dead humans. Abdoulaye thus had to spend more and more time on the market. I saw her look out at Abdoulaye as I gave her my card, she smiling with ambidextrous skill, both to satisfy the banal small talk I was using to show that I could interact with human beings that were not close friends, whilst also creating an allure in the space between her and Abdoulaye. Oh me! Tragic little old me! caught up in the web of the saleswoman, confusing her enacting of her occupational duties with love. I don’t love you, I said accidentally. I blushed. My forehead was suddenly dark like the deep end of a swimming pool, a swimming pool whose beige tiled edges I had vomited onto as a child. My shirt stuck to my back like a second skin and I yanked at it to pull it away but it would not budge. My intonation suggested that I didn’t love her, but maybe something else, like I don’t love you, well maybe, yes I do love you, but her face suggested that she didn’t see it this way. That’s ok, she said. My god, what understanding, her kindness pulsed in my thighs and reminded me of what a wretched person I really am. Abdoulaye had just made quite a deal himself. One of the Nazis had broken away from his flock and was bartering for a ridiculous price on a multi-pack of Thomas the Tank Engine phone cases and Abdoulaye was relenting. The price is the price, Abdoulaye said. With a crisp £20 note in his hand, the purple paper perfectly flat, as if the Nazi had ironed it with a hair straightener, Abdoulaye leant on the entrance to Boot Zone and smiled at the girl in front of me. I felt foolish. Foolish I am, I said out loud again. I reached out again to the box that was now scanned and for which I had paid for and looked at the girl one last time. You’re going to look great in those, she said, pulling words from her infinite pool of kindness. Thank you, I said like a man thanking another man for pulling his child from a pond or a paddling pool. I meant it, I mean. As I left the shop passing Abdoulaye, who was handsome and cute, I stood and watched Abdoulaye and the girl embrace, recreating shapes and movements I now knew they repeated often. Ah, I said, not a painful ah, but an ah of discovery, ah they’re in love. I looked down at the box and realized that the boots I had bought were women’s boots. It seemed obvious now. Her hesitation when I asked to try them on and then her acceptance and assistance. The strange look from the other customers as I walked down the side of the shop, watching my feet in the mirror on the floor. My god, what understanding. I loved her even more now walking out the shopping centre with my boots. I wondered what the Nazis over the road would think of me if I banged on the bar with my fists to conjure silence and told the lads all about my foible across the road. Would they hoist me onto their shoulders or lacerate me with their belts?