Penny Loafers

"Our apartment is at street level, and I can see them only from the knees down--my mother's long thing legs and ankles, and behind them the man's beige slacks and flat brown shoes. They kick up leaves as they go by, and I can tell by the tilt of my mother's heels that she is leaning against the man. Above me I hear Mr. Rosenberg wheel to his window. Because he is higher up, he has a better view--he can see if they talk or kiss as they walk. I can only imagine them at the street corner, my mother's arm draped loosely around the man's shoulder as he looks up and down the street, lights a cigarette, pulls his coat tightly about him. Mr. Rosenberg can watch them for two or three blocks, but all I can see is the street, the wheels of cars, and the featureless walls of the buildings across from me. There is really nothing else to see from this window, but my mother spends most of her time here, looking out through the iron bars. ---You can tell a lot from people's shoes, she tells me, ---and the way they walk, but when I ask her to tell me then what a pair of red sneakers says to her, or some penny loafers, she looks off through the dusty glass. ---Well, she says, ---they're really going by too fast to tell much." (97-8)

Nugent, Beth. City of Boys. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1992.

Photograph copyright Leon Levinstein, 1970s.