This is an article on a subject I wrote some years ago following a long period of trying desperately to find the right words to do it justice. After many years of struggling, and failing, inspiration came in a most peculiar and unexpected way, as it often does. I was propelled into action by a piece of throwaway hate I read online. The article was seen by award-winning author Maggie Anton who said it was one of the most powerful pieces she had ever read.
This story contains a cliche. Cliches, while being annoying, tired and often trite are rooted in the truth, which is probably why humankind simultaneously uses and sneers at them because, unpalatable truths are, well, unpalatable.
So, here’s the bones of it. I once read a piece of improbable hate in a Youtube comment. As heinous and cowardly as it was, I will get it out of the way now. It read: You fucking piece of Jew scum. You oven-dodger.
At this point I would like to add that this is not a story about irrational hate, but rather about turning that hate into a love story.
I once saw this shoe. In a museum. It lay nestled amongst a lot of other pairs of shoes, a little brown suede, wedge-heeled shoe with a pale green trim. And I fell in love with it. I imagined its owner to have been a stylish young woman who loved life; she had an infectious laugh that made everyone who heard it at least break out in an involuntary smile as she skipped through life in her beautiful brown suede wedge heeled shoes, dashing from cafe to cafe, chatting with friends. The shoe looked to have been my size, so I’m guessing she was a petite woman, prone to mischief and flirting. She could have been me.
This shoe that I fell in love with lay in a pile of hundreds of thousands of other shoes. But amidst a pile of decaying, broken shoes – black shoes, brown shoes, grey shoes; red, white and blue shoes – I saw just this one shoe. And her. Yet I know nothing about the owner of this shoe, everything I have said about her comes from my own imagination.
It’s been years since I was at Auschwitz, but she’s still there. You don’t have to go too far to walk in someone else’s shoes, as most human experiences are shared. But oven-dodging is not one of them. And for some reason, it hurts me to know that she didn’t.