At last they met: A tale of two shoe pairs

By Berqi from Asmara

After staying on with their owner for four years, the pair of shoes was finally taken to Asmara’s Edaga Haraj for a sale at a much lower price. A hot September 2012 Saturday it was when they were brought to Haraj. Worn out, faded and the heels downsized. Who would believe that these were the raven, 220 USD Calvin Klein shoes that Lily desirously bought at the Dubai Mall for Yoni, her fiancé, who lives in Asmara.

Lily and Yoni were born and raised in Asmara. Yoni was classmates with Lily’s elder brother, Mike, at the University of Asmara. Lily and Yoni were introduced through Mike. Lily is a high school graduate, yet very smart. She worked with one of the Italian NGOs which were active in Eritrea before the government unceremoniously shut down NGOs. Lily was very good at networking with her Italian bosses in Asmara and through them she managed to get a mid-level administrative job a luxurious hotel in Dubai managed by an Italian hotel management team. No surprises that Lily had to walk through the border with the Sudan to stay at Khartoum and then go to Dubai.

Yoni, his fate sealed like that of all Eritrean youth, is still stuck with his national service assignment at one of the government ministries in Asmara. He is bored and frustrated because there is not much of a work to do at the Ministry. It is funny; there are five youngsters assigned to his small office to do the same job.  He has to consider himself lucky, though, because he has been assigned to work in Asmara. Lily’s brother, Mike, is in Massawa.

At least once a day, Yoni must have an online chat with his fiancée Lily. They love each other so much. It has been four long years and with the national service turning interminable, they have now agreed to meet in Dubai the usual way – Yoni ‘going’ through the Sudan. Lily has been searching a job for Yoni and has finally landed him one at a real estate company right at Dubai’s Sheik Zayd Road. They have agreed to tie the knot in December 2012.

Back to the shoes…

Immediately after she settled in Dubai Lily bought stuff for Yoni. She went to the Dubai Mall and her eyes fell on a pair of CK shoes. Asmarinos as they are, Lily and Yoni frequently mentioned fashion. CK is his idol. So she wanted to send him a CK package – shoes, and perfume and belt. It was her first time to go to the world’s biggest mall and she asked Tom to accompany her. Tom is the son-in-law of the manager of the hotel that Lily works at. He is a highly connected British executive at a technology firm stationed in London’s Swiss Re Tower, or “the gherkin” as they call it in London. Tom frequently visits his father-in-law in Dubai and has been planning to buy an apartment in downtown Dubai. Lily’s boss asked her if she could help Tom on the matter and finally Tom found one that he liked. It was, therefore, a small thing for Tom to go with Lily to help her do shopping for a man – Yoni. Whenever he is in Dubai, Tom, always nonplussed by the turn of events in Eritrea, asks Lily to tell him more about her native land.

When Tom and Lily picked up the CK shoes for Yoni, Tom told Lily that as a memento for what she did for him, he would pick up another pair of same CK shoes displayed side by side Yoni’s, though Tom’s were larger in size…

The story now is that of these two pairs of CK shoes which were produced on the same day at CK’s Milan branch, shipped on the same day to Dubai, displayed side by side, stayed there for three weeks together finally to be picked up by a tall British executive and a light-skinned Eritrean, destined to two completely different places to witness unrelatedly different events and to finally meet at Asmara’s Edaga Haraj on a bright Saturday, September 2012 morning... they are called CK-London and CK-Asmara.

The shoe world is full of such stories. It is the same with the watch, car, clothes, eyeglasses and cosmetics worlds. Unknown to the human race, these products have long developed a language of their own, a lingua franca called where did it end up. This is a language by which the products, when they are fresh out of production store, tell where they want to end up and predict where fellow products could end up. Scores upon scores of such stories are recorded in the designer products world; many wishes and predictions have been fulfilled and many end ups have become surprisingly different from the wishes and predictions. There was this famous story of three Rolex watches which were displayed in a posh Paris street. One of them wished to end up at the hand of a sportsman, the second in the hand of a world-class artist and the third in the hand of a head of state. Well, when reality struck, the first watch ended up in the hand of a wealthy Middle Eastern emir, the second ended up at the right wrist of Sir Paul McCartney and the third at the wrist of Field Marshal, al Hajj Dr. Idi Amin ‘Dada’ of Uganda. You never know where you end up in.       

For three weeks, CK-London and CK-Asmara had stayed at the Milan department store before they were ready for shipment to any shop in the world. They had a dozen of shoe pairs simultaneously produced with them. As they all awaited shipment they started the where did it end up ritual wishing and predicting. CK-London wished to end up in Milan’s high-end shops to be bought by a fashion designer and wished CK-Asmara a trip to a classy Manhattan mall to be bought by a Wall Street CEO. In return, CK-Asmara wished to end up at the feet of David Beckham and wished CK-London to be around in the UK bought by Sir Norman Foster. The other CKs did the same wish and predict. Again when reality struck, CK-London and CK-Asmara flew to a destination that has been very popular in the fashion items world – Dubai. Their colleagues at the Milan store were flown to all corners of the world as the agents came and collected them one by one.

For three solid weeks, CK-London and CK-Asmara stayed at the front of an expensive CK-only shop inside Dubai Mall, that amazing, must-visit mall. They, however, knew that there were other fashion shoes around. As the waiting grew more and more boring, they started to count the number of window shoppers, the number of potential buyers who wore them and placed them back because they hesitated to buy. In the midst of all the waiting, they were both keen to see if their wishes and predictions could, by some spark of a miracle, be fulfilled. How can CK-London go back to Milan where it wished to be displayed at? Not so sure. And how can CK-Asmara’s dream of landing at Beckham’s feet become real? CK-Asmara’s hopes were high at some point as both CKs heard a Filipino saleswoman talk to another salesman that she heard Beckham was in Dubai and that he said he wanted to do shopping for himself and his wife Victoria at the Dubai Mall. If Beckham does not buy it, CK-Asmara wished that CK-London’s prediction for a Wall Street CEO be made true if, say, a Wall Street CEO who came for a meeting in Dubai comes and picks it up. It was the same with CK-Asmara’s wish for CK-London to be bought by Norman Foster. What if he gets invited by the Ruler of Dubai to design a new building and shows up for a Dubai Mall shopping?

Reality ain’t dream baby. It was in the midst of such routine talk between the two CK’s that three weeks after the two CKs’ arrival in Dubai a tall British executive and a light-skinned Eritrean stood in front of the shop. As the two potential buyers picked up the two CK’s, the CKs intuitively knew that these two people were definitely buying them. CK-London said to itself, “If I couldn’t end up in a Milanese shop, this guy should at least be living in Milan. That was my wish. But CK-Asmara predicted that I will end up at the feet of Sir Foster. This man sounds British, but does not have the looks of an architect...emmm” CK-Asmara in turn said: “Well, she definitely wants me for her boyfriend or husband or whoever man he is. She is no way related to Beckham for she is not white. So my wish is gone for good. As to CK-London’s wish for me to end up in a Manhattan CEO’s feet, let me see if this woman has anything to do with such a CEO.” In less than ten minutes, the CKs were placed in CK plastic bags and went out of the shop and Dubai Mall itself. Surprisingly, they were still together because their buyers entered the same car. “Are these two buyers related,” asked both CKs as they were both placed at the rear of the car.

“This does not look good my dear,” said CK-Asmara, as it felt a portent all around it. CK-London, feeling the same, replied “I don’t know, I don’t know.” And added, “Anyways, since the moment we all were taken out of the machine, we knew we would not end up together. We could only wish and predict, but our wishes and predictions don’t usually come true. That’s what you and I did. I wished a Milan fashion designer and you predicted Norman Foster for me. You wished Beckham and I predicted Manhattan for you. Well, it looks like your place of prediction for me, London, looks more likely because I have a British buyer. Your wish for Beckham looks vaporized. But let us see if my prediction for your landing at New York comes true assuming this woman who bought you has something to do with a Wall Street CEO.” Then the car stopped and both CKs knew it was the moment of truth. Feeling weepy, they wished each other the best of luck and hoped that they meet again, although they knew the chance for them to meet again was infinitesimal. CK-Asmara was taken away and CK-London stayed in the car. The car must have been the Brit’s.

CK-London soon realized that the Brit would be flying to London that night. He was calling his wife back in London. “I am ending up in London, bye-bye Milan. This guy is not a Milanese fashion designer. Let’s see if CK-Asmara’s wish for me at least to end up in London comes true. Does this dude know Norman Foster? Any relations whatsoever?” it muttered. In less than four hours, CK-London saw itself placed inside a baggage and, although it was inside the baggage, knew from experience that it was in an airport, and then in an airplane. After some hours of flight, it landed at Heathrow and was out of the airport. Inside a car, it could tell that its buyer was talking to his wife who came to meet him at the airport. After a 20 minute drive, CK-London was taken into a very beautiful mahogany shoe shelf. There it met a Pierre Cardin, another CK (a year older than it was), a burgundy Florsheim Riva, a brown Bruno Magli Marco, a Donald J Pliner and four or five other shoes of equal stature as it was. The eldest of the shoes, a lace-up Emporio Armani, formally welcomed CK-London on behalf of the shoe community at Mr. Tom’s house and asked CK-London to make a short speech introducing itself. When CK-London reached the part where it told them that CK-Asmara had wished for it to end up at the shoes of Norman Foster, the Pierre Cardin interjected, “well, there is a slight possibility that you might at least see Sir Foster. We just heard Tom tell his wife before he left for Dubai that his technology firm at London’s Swiss Re Tower will honor Sir Foster with a dinner in ten days’ time. In case you didn’t know, Sir Foster designed Swiss Re. I believe that as a new shoe, Tom will take you to the dinner and if he meets the architect, you will see him and you can shout from Tom’s feet that you were meant to be his.”

That’s what actually happened at the dinner. Tom talked to Norman Foster and CK-London was able to see him for the first time. “Only if I could tell this to my friend CK-Asmara,” it said. Four years passed and CK-London toured the world. It even met a Wall Street real estate CEO when Tom went to New York to negotiate a networking deal with the New York Company. Another reason to remember CK-Asmara…

The same night when it was bought by the Eritrean woman, CK-Asmara has its package removed and thrown into a tightly packed baggage. Almost everything that can be bought from a mall was in that baggage. CK-Asmara was shocked to see that five kilos of pasta, three cans of NIDO milk, three pairs of baby pampers, orange juice powder, a hair dryer, two baby toys, a cell phone, two dozen KISS mints, three Advil boxes, a SONY digital camera, a 2GB USB flush, T-shirts etc. “Where a hell am I heading to? Is the traveller moving to another country?” asked CK-Asmara. No answer came from the confused crowd. Every one of them was asking the same question. The only thing that CK-Asmara could relate itself to was a pair of Nike sneakers a dozen of inches away in the baggage. “At last, I found someone who can talk to me,” it shouted and they started to tell their story as they waited for the airplane to come and take them to their destination. Both had seen a CK perfume, but it was nowhere to be seen inside the baggage’s jungle.

“What kind of darkness is this?” asked CK-Asmara when it landed Asmara International Airport. No reply. As it made its way out through the conveyer belt, CK-Asmara, which has become touchy, asked the pair of sneakers, “Hey, this airport is too small. What is it called?” After an hour or so, the baggage left the airport. It was very cold outside. At the gate of the airport, Yoni waited to receive the baggage. Lily had paid for the baggage to be taken by a friend of hers who was flying to Asmara. She sent him his CK shoe, perfume and belt while the rest was for his family and her friends.

The baggage was put at the back of a cab and in no more than five minutes, the cab’s tires were met by the bumpy road that lead to Yoni’s house at Mhram Chra. “Are you kidding me?” bellowed CK-Asmara when the fifth bump hit, “I just want to know where this guy is taking me. This is isn’t Manhattan for sure.” The cab stopped and the baggage was taken out. When the baggage was opened, CK-Asmara breathed a sigh of relief. As he took out CK-Asmara, CK perfume and CK belt from the baggage Yoni screamed, “Oh my God! Look at them. They are lovely.”

Four long years passed for CK-Asmara. Many good memories and bad ones, Moments of joy and sadness. CK-Asmara rarely goes to Hotel Asmara Palace which has one of the best tiles. Its nightmare comes when Yoni has to make the ten minute walk from the nearest asphalted road to his home through a dusty, rocky way. It tries to be friendly with the shoes in the rack where Yoni places his shoes, but has not yet been able to understand their class. No Pierre Cardins, no Valentinos, no Bacco Buccis as it used to see in Dubai Mall. “Who are these guys? By the way I am still unable to know the background of that plastic sandal which calls itself Shda. It is cool, but when it starts to tell its story, there seems to be no end to the narration,” CK-Asmara repeats to itself.

In a couple of years, CK-Asmara gave up. It grew older and older as the merciless rocks and gravel in Asmara took its leather away bit by bit. Often Yoni’s brother borrows it for a date or other socializing occasions. The borrowing thing, CK-Asmara cannot understand. After two years, CK-Asmara became a full-fledged Asmarino shoe and became skilled at getting solace out of the many depressing events that it witnessed. CK-Asmara likes to hear Yoni and his friends get into a heated debate about the Premier League, but it often says to itself, “Only if the Premiere League were to be an entertainment. I wonder sometimes if these guys are paid to do this. Can’t they at least dream of something big to come on their lives?” CK-Asmara cannot understand why Yoni and his friends have lost confidence in themselves and stopped reading at all. “Do they have to come to the same café every night?” CK-Asmara is anxious to know. Many a time, Yoni took CK-Asmara to enda hazen of a young man or woman who died crossing the border or in the Sudan or, the worst of them all, in the Mediterranean Sea. Four months ago, it heard a very horrifying story when Yoni was in Bar Royal with his friends talking about a friend of theirs who was killed at the hands of the Bedouin in the Sinai desert. Very recently, Yoni has been talking with his friends about a bizarre story that Kalashnikovs are to be rationed to almost every breathing soul in Eritrea above the age of 18 up to around 75.    

In four years, CK-Asmara grew old. It had been through a lot. It couldn’t stay longer. Worn out by the dust, sun, mud and rocks of Asmara, CK-Asmara surrendered to old-age. Back in Milan it used to hear in the store that a CK-shoe can last an average of 10 years ‘if taken to places fitting to its class.’ It took four years for CK-Asmara to retire. So Yoni, accepting the reality with CK-Asmara, decided to take it to Edaga Haraj to be sold as used pair of shoes.

It was a Saturday 2012 morning when CK-Asmara and CK-London met at Haraj. After wearing it for four years, Tom asked Lily if she wants to send CK-London to one of her relatives back in Asmara. She agreed and sent CK-London to Asmara to her brother Mike. With CK-London becoming too large for Mike’s shoes, he decided to take them to Haraj…



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