A Stranger's Boots, part 1: The box
Mike finds the perfect boots on eBay, and gains unexpected confidence.
The saved search on eBay has been there for at least two years. Mike is determined to own a pair of 20-hole, steel-toed, oxblood-red Rangers, size UK 11, made in England – and ideally, a pair that’s already broken in. Mike doesn’t mind the idea of wearing another man’s boots. In fact, he thinks it’s kind of hot.
Every week or so eBay emails him with a new listing that matches his search. But they have never been the boots he wants. Either the seller misstates the size – US 11 is a full size smaller than UK 11 – or they are not even Rangers. Some people think that you count all the eyelets, not just one side, labeling 10-hole boots incorrectly as 20-hole.
Eventually Mike’s patience pays off. He reads the item description again and again, and examines the photos skeptically. But everything’s right. Well broken-in with creases in all the right places, toes banged up without serious damage, heels worn down just enough. The seller knows what he’s doing: One of the photos clearly shows the size printed inside the tongue: UK 11, “Made in England.” He punches the buy button before someone else does. He’s sure he’s not the only guy out there on the lookout for these rare boots.
For Mike there’s something special about Rangers. The upturned toe, the screwed-down soles, the particular shine on the leather. Mike has owned many boots but when he sees a guy wearing Rangers he stops in his tracks. Rangers make an un-hot guy hot, and a hot guy excruciatingly so. Combine the boots with a lean build and a shaved head, and Mike is ready to drop to his knees and lick the guy’s boots. Mike wants one of those guys. The next best thing is to be one of those guys.
He obsessively checks the package tracking several times a day. He watches the boots make their way across the country on what must be the slowest truck ever, inching their way from city to city, all the way from the other coast. Five days pass, then the package status changes to “delivered.” It is early on a Friday morning. Mike is at the office, doing his monotonous job testing boring database software. He finds himself not paying attention to the test results, fixated on the idea of the boots languishing in the lobby of his apartment buildingk, and not being able to put them on for another eight or ten hours. He messages his supervisor and teammates. “Feeling sick, going home.”
Fuck the subway. He takes an Uber to his apartment, eighteen bucks.
His apartment building’s lobby is always strewn with Amazon boxes and other online orders, but he knows what he is looking for. A box that can hold these boots will be about eighteen by twelve by four. It isn’t there. Maybe the seller managed to cram them into a smaller box. If so, Mike hopes he didn’t crease the leather in the wrong places.
“It’s the big one,” the doorman says from across the lobby. “Over there.” It turns out to be a moving box, a three-foot cube. He is confused for a second, but the label has his name on it. He wrestles the heavy box onto the elevator, down the hall, and just inside his front door. He rips savagely at the tape on the box, already annoyed that he might find the seller has sent the wrong auction.
The box is packed tight with clothing and other random items. Faded t-shirts with band names. Skinny jeans riddled with holes. Barber clippers. A leather wallet with a long chain. CDs. Plaid shirts. An ancient leather jacket. What the fuck. He doesn’t stop to examine any of it. He tosses it all aside, a sloppy pile accumulating around the box. All the way at the bottom, there they are. The boots. His boots.
He sprints to the bedroom and rummages in a drawer to dig up a pair of tall boot socks. He tears off his sneakers, pushes the hems of his jeans all the way up to his knees, and pulls on the boot socks. He grabs one of the boots but it is laced up tight, all the way to the top. “Dammit,” Mike growls.
He pulls roughly at the laces. They resist. They are almost too fat for the holes. One hole at a time he extracts the laces. Finally he has the right boot opened up. Holding each side of the boot shaft, he crams his foot into the boot. The boot is still not opened up quite far enough. But he forces his foot in, pulling hard at sides of the shaft. Almost.
“Fuck me,” he mutters. He wouldn’t go through this much trouble for any other boots.
Then there’s a satisfying thunk as his heel gets past the ankle of the boot and settles into place. Oh, man. They feel great. On the inside he can feel the impression of the guy’s foot. That alone makes him hard.
Then with tedious effort he laces the boot back up. He runs out of lace at the 18th pair of holes, with nothing left for a bow. He makes do with a square knot. The guy who owned them must have had skinnier calves. He flexes his ankles against the leather now firmly gripping his legs. The balance of resistance and give is perfect. The well established creases in the leather are doing their job.
Then on to the left boot. The same laborious unlacing and re-lacing, again running out of lace before the last pair of eyelets. He springs from the chair and walks around the room. He almost feels like he’s stepped into a mold of his own foot. He pushes his jeans back down over the boots, but the impact is blunted. He turns up his jeans an inch or so, then again. The dark blue denim, the red leather, and the now exposed lighter interior of the rolled-up denim – it’s right on the money.
His button-up shirt is wrong so he strips it off. He evaluates himself in the mirror. He’s been self-critical of his progress at the gym, building up his pecs and arms, but he feels great today. “Wow,” he says aloud. Then he notices his hard-on is pressing firmly against his jeans now. Is he finally seeing just enough of the guys he likes… in himself? Or maybe it’s just his long-standing boot fetish.
He leaps onto his bed and unzips. He starts pumping his dick, lifting his head to look at his boots. The steel toes make his feet look bigger and wider. He wiggles his toes inside the boots and feels them tap against the unyielding metal inside. The idea of his feet being inside a metal prison, requiring several minutes to free them again, heats him up further. It doesn’t take many strokes for his dick to erupt, a wide stream shooting high then landing all over his jeans, some of it splashing the boot toes.
“Holy hell,” he mutters. He was a teenager the last time he blew like that.
He rolls off the bed and into the bathroom. He wipes down his crotch and scrapes the gunk from his jeans. His dick is still pretty hard, and it’s still drooling a steady stream. He looks back through the doorway and there’s a nearly unbroken trail of it across the carpet. He sits on the toilet and waits for it all to trickle out, milking his dick to speed the process. Unbelievable, he thinks.
Now unloaded, he wants to take a walk around the neighborhood to give the boots a proper test drive. He grabs his favorite white t-shirt, pushing his head through and stretching it over his torso as he walks down the hall. At the front door he takes a closer look at the stuff surrounding the shipping box.
“Who would do that,” he says. Sending all these clothes to a random guy who bought the boots. Why would the seller think any of it would fit him? He picks up one of the t-shirts. Black Flag logo on the front, sleeves cut off, frayed at the edges. It’s been worn and washed many times. The tag says medium but Mike wears a large, sometimes needing an extra large to reach across his built-up shoulders and pecs. Shaking his head, he drops the t-shirt back into the pile.
At the bottom of the otherwise empty box he spots a folded piece of paper that, in his frenzy to get the boots on his feet, he didn’t notice before. It’s a receipt from the seller but there’s something handwritten on it. “Thanks for buying the boots. I couldn’t bear donating the rest of his things. I figured that anyone who likes the boots might like these other items too. Everything is freshly washed. If you don’t have any use for them, feel free to pass them along. May God bless you.”
So he’s wearing… a dead man’s boots? Mike’s not the type to get creeped out, but he feels a momentary sadness. The boots are well-oiled, the creases not cracked. Whoever owned these boots loved them and took good care of them.
He puts all the clothes back in the box, this time with more respect. Amid the pile he sees the wallet again, a long chrome chain attached to it for clipping on on a belt loop. Inside is a few dollars of cash, a photo of a young woman, a years-expired credit card, a business card for a motorcycle repair shop in San Diego… and a driver’s license.
Benjamin Mark Fraser. Chula Vista, California. Born 1986. Five foot eleven, 180 pounds. He’s a good-looking guy, a little rough around the edges – a sunburned, clean-shaven head, bushy red beard, and half a dozen rings going up one ear.
Mike wonders what happened to him. This guy would be 33 this year. But he didn’t make it. Too early, Mike thinks. A shame. Mike’s not religious and doesn’t believe in an afterlife but even so, he looks vaguely upward and says “Thanks for the boots. I’ll take good care of them.” His jaw aches a little as he says it. He thinks, I’m getting choked up over a stranger?
At first he hesitates to use it, but Mike always wanted a chain wallet. He takes out the wallet’s contents and moves his own stuff into it. He heads out the front door to get acquainted with the boots, and to give the boots their first taste of the lower East Side’s gritty sidewalks.