After school one day, my best friend Gloria and I tied our white blouses at the waist and rolled up our pleated uniform skirts, wearing so much mascara, eye shadow and blush we looked like cadaveras in search of a wake. We took the El to the loop for a little shopping. As soon as we sauntered into Marshall Fields we were shadowed by house dicks who decided we were there for the five-finger discount. We lingered in the lingerie department to embarrass them and then browsed the bling. We dallied among the dresses and Gloria joked that not even white girls were as white as the mannequins. There was no sense in visiting the shoe department; the sales staff there insisted on measuring your stocking feet before trying on anything. On the way out, at the door, a store detective nabbed our collars and demanded we open our purses. The grim man pulled out packs of gum, crumpled tissues, keys, peppermints, a tampon. He asked, “Do those skirts have pockets?” Gloria opened her lipsticked mouth to reply Don’t you wish, so you could search them, too but I elbowed her.
“No, officer,” I said politely.
He cocked his head, reading our faces, and I worried that, given my blushing cheeks, we might be in for a pat-down in the office. But he let us pass. He kept a narrowed eye on us through the display window. On the sidewalk, out of earshot, I waved my hands, irritated to no end. The nerve. They tailed us just because we’re brown. I mean, how could you just walk out with stuff, anyway? Easy, Gloria told me – walk out wearing it. She pulled her hair back to reveal the lifted earrings. ¿Gloria, estás loco? I scolded. But it was half in horror and half in admiration. I knew that with my pleated plaid skirt and white socks, I couldn’t walk out wearing those Salvatore Ferragamo high heels I had admired instead of my boring Buster Browns.
Thanks, Selena. Now we can see that your interest in shoes goes back a long way.