"They dance her out into the street,
they dance her over the mountains and valleys"
For almost 4 years, I have worn red shoes. Red, everyday (bar one; mummy wouldn't let me be her bridesmaid in red shoes). Red flats, red heels, brogues, sneakers, boots, courts and (courtesy of a knitter friend) red slippers.
I suffer from bouts of depression. That makes it sound very simple, but it is not. My last fairly severe patch was about 4 and a half years ago. I stopped living.
I got up, put on baggy jeans and whichever tee-shirt was cleanest, pulled my hair back with a scrunchie, went to uni, came home, and went to bed. I existed on a diet of cigarettes, Doritos and bad American reality TV, becasue I couldn't be arsed to shop or cook or change the channel. I graduated. I didn't get a job. I got a really shit job. I got a boyfriend who would rather be needed than wanted. I went to work, I came home, I smoked and I slept.
One day, a girl at work gave me a pair of red ballet pumps - she'd picked up the wrong size, and so, instead of taking them back to Primark, thought I might like them. I barely looked at them.
I came home from work, I slept, I went to work, I stood and nodded while people talked in my direction. I existed, just. I wore a hole in the sole of the pair of plimsolls I'd had on everyday for months. I spent the day with sodden feet, dirty London rainwater soaking my socks. The next day I put on the red ballet pumps.
I walked to work, looking down at the floor, but occasionally catching glimpses of red between the grey-ed out denim bottoms of my frayed jeans and the damp grey pavement. She was right, the girl at work, they were a nice colour.
In the break room, alone, I sat in the green swivel chair, not doing anything - too bored to do anything, to boring to sit outside with the others.
Suddenly, I was doing something - I was sticking my legs straight out in front of me and spinning on the chair. Spinning, looking at my red shoes wizzing around. Spinning and laughing, laughing out loud, the first real laugh I had laughed in months, in my whole life maybe. Then crying. Face in my hands, red shoes dangling on the end of little girl legs not long enough to reach the floor, sobbing.
I went to the bathroom and mopped myself up.
But I remembered that I had laughed, and I suspected that I may have smiled without realising it, at those occasional glimpses of colour on grey paving slabs. I wore the red shoes again the next day.
They were not a miracle cure, and did not herald an instantaneous turn around. But since that day my life has taken many steps, tiny, not so tiny, and occasionally backwards, towards knowing how to make myself be happy, how to make myself laugh and how to smile for no reason. All of those steps have been taken in red shoes.