“Man, how are you guys already done packing? I haven’t even started yet!” Larry shouted out to the group. The four boys were gathered at Carlos’ house as they were every Sunday afternoon; usually to watch some sporting event or play a round of X-Box. However, this Sunday was different than most: The four boys were congregated for the last time before they went off on their various summer adventures. For the first time since they had become buddies, which really was since birth, the boys would not be spending their summer days walking around their hometown of Washington D.C., or their summer nights crammed into someone’s basement to play “Madden NFL.” Though they tried to hide their emotions, they all felt the same anxiety about their first summer apart.
Since three out of four boys had flights within the next twenty-four hours, they decided to bring their things over to Carlos’ place so they wouldn’t have to pack alone. Boys being boys, Carlos’ tiny bedroom in his dad’s house was filled with mountains of clothes, duffels, and shoes. “Dude, do you really need ALL of those shoes?” Tommy asked Carlos. “Look, my mom and I have a lot planned for this summer. We’re going to be playing tennis every day and walking around South Carolina every night, so I know she won’t want me wearing the same thing all of the time.” Carlos’ parents had divorced years ago; causing his mom to move to South Carolina for a new start. Since he barely saw her all year, Carlos wanted to ensure his summer with her would be perfect.
“Yeah bro, I get it; but what about these?” Tommy held up a black and white pair of Pumas he found in one of the piles on Carlos’ floor. “Are these the ones you got at that thrift shop?” Ben, the athlete, questioned. “Yeah, Larry and I stopped in to help his little brother get his suit for formal. They were only $3.49!” Carlos replied. “Man, for Pumas? I got to try them on,” Tommy replied. “How could they fit you? You’re a size eleven and I’m only an eight,” Carlos responded. Carlos was a little self-conscious about his tiny feet, which he inherited from his mom. “Can’t hurt to try,” Tommy responded. “They might not make it into your duffel!” Tommy kicked off his high tops and slipped on the Pumas. Surprisingly, he had no trouble sinking his feet into them. “How did you do that?” Larry asked. “You try!” Tommy kicked off the sneakers and threw them to Larry. Larry, a size fourteen, carefully slipped off his loafers and laced up the sneakers. “Whoa…that’s a big change. They look sick on you though!” the other boys commented. “I never expected me to like them, but I think I do,” Larry responded. Larry was definitely not a running shoes kind of guy. A quiet artist, Larry put a lot of thought into his attire and could often be found wearing flannels, skinny jeans, and loafers.
“Alright, Ben, it’s all on you. If these little Pumas fit on your big old feet, then we know it’s real,” Carlos stated. Ben, a soccer star, unlaced his cleats and picked up the Pumas. All eyes were on him as he slid his size eighteens into the sneakers. He stood up and walked across the room. “They fit, and I’m taking them to soccer camp with me!” Ben yelled. He kicked off the shoes and dumped them into his duffel bag. Immediately, all of the boys got up and started tackling him to get to the bag. “No, I bought them!” Carlos shouted. “If I’m sticking around all summer, I want to wear them to work!” Tommy cried. “I should take them to Greece with me!” Larry exclaimed.
After teasing each other and laughing in Carlos’ room all afternoon, Sunday night the boys decided to meet at their childhood “secret hangout.” They gathered at “Gilda’s,” an abandoned bar where their dads used to meet after their wives dragged them to prenatal classes. Their dads became best friends; helping each other get through the two hour long parenting classes and the changes they saw in their pregnant wives. They became a support system for each other. Once their sons were born, they used to bring their baby boys to the community pool on hot summer days. However, when the boys grew a little older, the men’s friendships faded. Soon, they became busy with their own lives: Larry’s dad became successful with his own business, Tommy’s young father worked day and night to support his struggling family, Carlos’ dad became single after a nasty divorce, and sadly, Ben’s father’s depression led to suicide. Though the fathers grew apart, the boys’ friendship remained strong.
To enter Gilda’s, the boys stealthily picked the lock and used flashlights to find their way up the stairs. As always, they brought tons of munchies with them: popcorn, chips, sodas, and candy. The thrill of sneaking out brought back the inner children in them all. As always, Carlos put on some of their dad’s favorite songs, starting with ACDC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The boys cracked up as Tommy played air guitar to this first track. Soon, the boys turned their attention to Carlos as he pulled out the sneakers.
“So, this is it. Our last night together before we all have to split,” Carlos began. “Yeah, when I’m stuck working at the drug store while you all have fun,” Tommy grumbled. “Look, dude: I know it’s going to be rough, so I came up with an idea. I think we should share the sneakers,” Carlos stated. “How are we going to do that when we’re all far away?” Ben asked, kicking a soccer ball between his feet. “We’ll just mail them back and forth,” Carlos replied. “We could each write a little sonnet to go along with the sneakers; that way we can stay in touch,” Larry devised. “A sonnet? What about just a little ‘Yo man, what’s up?’ note in the box,” Ben teased. “You can write whatever, Larry. I’m sure it’ll sound great,” Carlos reassured. Larry knew they were all just messing around: His friends were always supportive of his artistic talent. “We should write down some rules,” Larry stated. “Yeah, like ‘don’t do anything stupid when you’re wearing the sneakers,’” Tommy replied. The boys came up with ten rules to abide by when they had the shoes. They also decided the order for passing them along. The sneakers would start with Larry in Greece with his grandparents, to Tommy at home in DC, to Carlos in South Carolina, and finally to Ben at camp in Baja. After a long night of talking and planning, the boys finally had to part ways for the summer; knowing they would stay united by the sneaks.