The lone grey sock felt like it had nothing more it could give.
A psychologist would probably have diagnosed the grey sock with having depression, but the sock did not have such meta thoughts. It was a sock after all.
So when its owner was distracted trying to open the laundry room door, the lone grey sock, or S, as it referred to itself, unceremoniously leaned over the ledge of the laundry basket and tumbled to the ground.
After the door had shut, S did not scream "Freedom!" or "Hooray for no more dance parties!" or "No more forgetting to remove me before unbelievably tacky-looking sex!" Please do remember that this was a sock and not some faux rebellious teenager. And in addition, it was certifiably depressed and all of the emotions and color had been drained from its view of life.
Instead, S inch-wormed itself slightly off-skew of the center of the hall, the logic being to best position itself to, ironically after so many years of being on a foot, be kicked by an unobservant passer-by.
And sure enough a brunette twenty-something year old girl, dressed in a slim white dress, with a cell phone propped in between her head and right shoulder, a leash tied to a yappy white shih tzu in one hand, and shopping bags containing an eclectic mix of make-up, a ribbon, a pint of raspberries, 3 cups of yogurt and a bag of quinoa in the other, came through on the first try. Albeit, wearing flats, the girl almost took a spill that would have embarrassed the creator of the exaggerated banana peel falls you see in movies; nevertheless, she managed to kick S forward near the door leading to the outside of the apartment building.
Now, the area near the door was the most likely place for S's adventure to come to an early end. In the best-case scenario, another passer-by would, like the young girl had, inadvertently boot S outside onto the Philadelphia sidewalks. In the worse scenario, however, a snooty resident might spot S and kick it to the corner, so that a disgusting sock would not, God forbid, sour the clean modern aesthetic of the apartment lobby and if all was right in the world, a dutiful janitor would sweep this bandit sock out of sight into its rightful place of the trash bin. That is just the way the world works sometimes.
I should take the time to note that in no such scenario would a good Samaritan ever notice how close the lone sock was to the laundry room, pick up said sock and return it to the laundry room. No person exists, so wholesome as to pick up some stranger's single, potentially dirty sock without prompting.
To return to the story S, it did make it outside, although not without some close calls. There were plenty of dogs who sniffed at S in curiosity, a number of puzzled and/or disgusted looks (none of which S feel much better about itself), and a very close miss of tomato sauce and cheese from a slice of pizza held by a 35-year old business man, very much in a rush to go pick up his dry-cleaning before the cleaners closed at 4.
Of course, of course, of course, it was a 5 year old boy who came to S's rescue, his eyes wide with giddy excitement at having found something he could soccer-ball-dribble. And of course, his wary mother caught on and made him leave the sock alone. S was left near a newspaper box, the boy giving one last rueful glance before being pulled forward, towards children's yoga class.
S inched forward purposefully with no particular destination, always cautiously minding the sidewalk cracks. S's "mother," a 53 year old sock manufacturer employee in Fort Payne Alabama and the beneficiary of such cautiousness, noticed that her back felt unusually limber that day.
When S came across the motionless homeless man, curled up on top of the steam vent like a large shrimp on a small grill, S followed the rest of the other pedestrians on the sidewalk in giving an unnecessarily wide berth to the man. There's no telling what such a man could do.
It was one of those days, that was not cold for those popping out for a 10 minute errand, but had a devious chill that quickly set in for anyone out longer than that. And S, for the first time, suddenly missed his owner's foot. Obviously, not so much for the foul smelling, sweatiness of it that together with the stretching slowly worn down at his seams, but rather for the warmth it provided S.
It started raining.
And if you know anything at all about the world, there is nothing worse than a cold, wet sock.
Well, except for cold, wet underwear.
And speak of the devil, S had snuck into a back alley, only to find itself cloth to cloth with a cold, wet pair of men's boxer briefs, size S (28-32) and black as the night.
The two fierce pieces of undergarments sat motionless for a few minutes, contemplating the consequences of an all-out battle.
To the uninformed observer, it was a bizarre sight that quickly led to some uncomfortable questions. Was there some man, who was running around without his underwear and with only one sock on? How did this go down? Perhaps there was a hormone induced young couple that could not resist the throes of their passion any longer?
A second imaginary, astute observer might have responded: No. There was no female clothing or any male outer garments to be seen.
No outer garments! Gasp! Did someone...
Did someone poop themselves and have to dispose of their sundered undergarments?
If anyone were to come to such a conclusion, I hope to hell that on a cold, rainy day or any day for that matter, they would not have the desire to investigate whether they had correctly hypothesized or not.
Meanwhile, a nearby traffic light turned green and almost as if by some sort of law, a young man unnecessarily gunned his Mustang forward, only to get stuck behind a bus not 10 feet away.
The young man cranked up his rap music in compensation.
The bouncing bass made it too loud to hear whether the Sock v. Underwear battle had started, for apparel battles were performed by the rubbing together of fabric. Like an ape beating its chest, the rubbing sound quickly signaled many attributes, such as the quality of material, texture, the history of the apparel, etc and for the very best of the best of these duelers, all it took was a single rub and others instantly not only recognized the function of the apparel, but also the supiority in its thoughtfulness of design and manufacturing.
S did not generally have the need to duke things out, but it could hold its own when it did. S was a rather unique sock, one with toes especially made for runners. Over its lifetime, S had proved its worth, having been dragged through the smelliest of mud pits, washed with ocean salt water and baked stiff and dry on flat rocks in the focused Baja California sun.
S made a tense scrunching up motion, an act whether made out of nervousness or just in preparation, only the sock gods knew.
S spoke first.
The rain continued to tap at the pavement and bounce off the tops of umbrellas.
Passing cars made that distinctive sound of tires rolling on wet pavement.
And yet there was silence from S's boxer-brief opponent.
Puzzled, S called out again, slightly louder and a bit bolder.
A car splashed through a nearby puddle that concealed a large pot hole. The chasis yelped in complaint.
Just when S was about to speak for a third time, he heard a response. Spoken slowly, almost inaudibly.
It was a familiar voice.
The Peachtree roadrace, the Bay to Breakers, the Kentucky Derby marathon flashed before S...
One might say that the underwear before him and S had shared the same owner, playing a part on a cohesive running apparel team from 2002 to 2004.
The owner had referred to the underwear as Defs. The explanation the owner publicly provided was "definite win." Privately, however, the owner spent a few seconds longer than necessary checking himself out in the mirror with them on and thinking to himself, "definite win."
It was jarring enough for S to encounter such a blast from the past in such an unexpected situation.
But it was a double shock, when S realized that Defs had just spoken its last words.
S had gotten to that alleyway just in time to witness Defs' elastics giving out.
S wriggled its toes, ruminating for a whole minute, thinking in a sock-manner about its existence.
... It then continued on its journey to nowhere.
Later that day, posted on Philadelphia Craigslist's Missed Connections:
Defs, I don't know where you are, but today I had pang of nostalgia. As you know, I can no longer run, but I sometimes like to put on the old gear and imagine myself at the starting line. I miss you, you made me look good.
P.S. One lost, grey Injinji sock. Last seen in the Dorchester. If you've seen it, please email or call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.