It’s an empowering decision to be open about an experience of sexual violence for the first time. Ann Casapini contributes to the narrative of so many survivors who are finding the courage to come forward with their stories, and she engages her readers with vivid emotions in the midst of a trying time in her life.
My Black Shoes from Paris
by Ann Casapini
My new black leather flats were so beautiful but they were uncomfortable. I really wanted to wear them because I had bought them in Paris and they reminded me of happier times. I hoped I just needed an insole for more arch support.
It was 1988. I had just gotten married three months prior, certain this was going to be the happiest time in my life but my Vietnam Vet husband had just been admitted to the VA psyche ward for alcohol induced hallucinations and suicidal threats. I thought if I went to lots of movies, I’d feel less lonely but doing that just gave me a dark place to sob.
So back to the shoes…We lived in Stuyvesant Town on Manhattan’s East River. I brought the black flats in to this tiny place in the neighborhood to inquire. I can’t remember the exact street. Maybe E21st or 22nd? The old Italian guy had a sign that said he made custom orthotics. His store was dark and smelled of shoe polish and leather and a hint of Mennen aftershave. His accent and cologne reminded me of my father. There was a glass counter with an old cash register sitting on top. Behind that was a set of platforms for men who came in to get their shoes shined. It looked like a three-tiered set of stairs with two seats on the top level. The shop was pretty unremarkable looking. Just small. And not well lit.
When I inquired about the orthotics, he glanced down at my jeans and told me he needed to measure my feet and legs in order to make the orthotics properly, so he recommended I return on another day, wearing a skirt and tights. Still in my emotional limbo, no flags went up.
Later in the week, I went back. He told me to stand on the top of the shoeshine platforms, next to one of the seats. He crouched on the bottom platform looking up at me. He had one end of a tape measure in his right hand and the other end in his left. He told me to stand very still. He began to measure the inseam of my left leg. The tape measure was between his left thumb and index finger.
At first when he pressed those two fingers too high on my inner thigh, I froze; and then he pressed them into my labia on the left side of my vagina. I couldn’t move. I wanted to yell something but my mouth was dry. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t breathe. When he was done, I left the shop in a fog. Feeling dirty. Ashamed. Stupid. Naive. Back in my empty apartment, all alone, I thought about calling my best friend Margie, but I was too humiliated to do even that.
A week later I was somehow able to summon my anger and courage and voice. I returned to the shoemaker’s shop, with the intention to get the name and exact address to notify the police. But the shop was boarded up with plywood covering the window. No explanation posted.
That was thirty years ago. I have never told anyone about this experience until today. Over the years I have occasionally wondered if I dreamt this up. But the phantom of the sensation of his thumb and forefinger moving up my thigh never goes away.
Ann Casapini has been a yoga and meditation instructor since 1995. She also loves to write, sing and dance salsa! She has been published in The Sun, Medusa’s Laugh Press: Microtext Anthology 3, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Scablands Books: Weird Sisters, and The Afterlife of Discarded Objects: A collective storytelling project. Ann is a repeat contributor to 650Read.com. Her poem “Stop the Clocks” is included in Military Experience & the Arts’ on-line journal: As You Were, May 2018. She was a finalist in the 2017 TSR Short, Short Fiction contest (The Southhampton Review) and received an Honorable Mention in The Westchester Review 2016 Flash Fiction contest. Ann studies writing with Steve Lewis. She lives in Tuckahoe, NY.