Wednesday, January 26, 2011


For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

When I got laid off from my job, I wasn’t too concerned at first. My wife was still working and we had savings. We didn’t have that many expenses.

And I wasn’t worried about my prospects.

I hold a Master’s degree in business administration with an impressive and continuous work history.

We live in a large city where there are plenty of companies engaged in commerce that should be, at least in theory, interested in my skill set.

“Something will come along” I told myself.

“This may actually be a good thing” I told my wife.

A week later to the day, my wife told me that she was pregnant. A small kernel of worry began to form in me, somewhere. But still, I wasn’t terribly concerned. Nine months would be a long time. In nine months, I figured that I’d have a solid start on a college fund. In nine months, we’d have the nursery painted yellow.

At 18 weeks, my wife’s best friend from university threw her a baby shower. Friends of ours traveled from up and down the east coast for the weekend. While the women were eating cake and opening gifts, I took the husbands and my poker buddies and a few work acquaintances to a whiskey bar. We slapped each other on the back and smoked fat cigars and at the end of the evening I put the lot on my credit card.

My wife was furious with me for that. She was spending more time being nervous and angry and impatient. I told her not to worry, in order to reassure her. I begged her not to worry, on account of the baby.

From the shower, there were so many gifts that they stood in stacks in our living room for 3 days before were able to sort through all of them. There were baby clothes and bins for soiled diapers and all sorts of baby things that I couldn’t even fathom.

One of the couples that had come to the shower weekend was The Manhattan Danfritzs, William and Jessica. Will was my closest friend from university. After graduation, we had lived near each other in New York City, during which time Jessica and my wife had become very close friends as well. William was a stock analyst and made good money right away but it wasn’t until he had been at it for a few years, just around the time that I had moved from Manhattan to attend graduate school, before he received a number of significant promotions in short time and really began to make a name for himself at his firm.

Jessica, William’s wife, was an entertainment lawyer. She too was an instant star in her firm. The two of them had become a power couple amongst the Manhattan elite and when they arrived at my wife’s baby shower, I hardly recognized them. They dressed differently and they talked differently, not just from how they had used to dress and talk, but differently from anyone I had ever met before.

This had made our back-slapping reunion at the whiskey bar a bit awkward. At the end of the night, my friends and ex-coworkers tried to pick up the tab, both because I was supposed to be the center of attention but also because they all knew that I was unemployed. Will was the only one who didn’t try to help pay because, I think, he couldn’t really understand what all of the fuss over a few hundred dollars was all about.

The day after the baby shower and my night out with the guys, my wife called me on my cell phone. I felt hung over, but I was following up on a few job leads anyway. I had left her at home going through the shower gifts.

“Did Will say anything to you about their gift to us?”

Going through the gifts again, Sarah had reexamined the pair of baby shoes that the Danfritzs had given us. She knows a bit about fashion and designers and, lately, all the best brands that sell clothing and shoes for both baby and mother. But she hadn’t heard of the brand of the baby shoes until she looked on the internet.

“Hon, these are $1000 baby shoes. Will and Jessica gave us $1000 baby shoes.”

I went home straight away to see the $1000 baby shoes.

Later that day, casually rubbing the toe of a $500 baby shoe with my thumb, I realized that I had missed a scheduled job interview. I had raced home to see The Shoes. Our savings account’s balance was slipping. The winter had been harsh and heating bills were the highest in years. Sarah’s cold had turned into bronchitis and, on account of the baby, the doctor’s bills had gotten large.

The next morning I received a voicemail about my missed interview. Apparently, I had wasted some important person’s time and I was informed that I should fuck off.

And then Sarah was 7 months pregnant. I was still unemployed. The spring time was glorious and our garden, usually flush with small flowers and early vegetable shoots, was brown with the fall’s remnants. I could see mold and slime on the decaying plants. It hadn’t been turned over.

Our savings were tapped. Sarah’s parents didn’t call as often because every time that they did, I was finding a new way to ask for money. I still called my parents every few days to keep them updated on the progress of their new grandchild. They sent $20 every 5 days.

With Sarah asleep on the couch, uncomfortable with child and unable to sleep in our bed, I would search the internet for job leads, no longer limiting myself to our city or even to the east coast. I needed a job. My family needed money.

Late one night, I was at the computer and Sarah stirred on the couch. My glass of cheapest whiskey was empty, except for barely a remnant of an ice cube. On a shelf, I saw the gifted baby shoes on display. Our family needed money. I logged on to Craigslist and posted the following ad: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

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