Last Call for #BarnhillPrize Submissions

Our current submission period is open from June 1, 2021 to July 31, 2021. Submit your nonfiction to be considered for the #BarnhillPrize


Previous winners of The Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction 

Mary J. Mahoney, Suburbs Plagued by Foraging Deer 2019
Marsha Lynn Smith, 4 Generations of Black Hair Matters 2020

Read all our published essays via our Creative Nonfiction menu tab.

#BarnhillPrize judge 2021 Mike Smith

Creative Nonfiction

This Is Always about The Shoes

These were them, all right.

I want to tell you about the shoes.

I want to tell you enough but not too much, or certainly not the wrong things.

About the shoes.

Because this, in my subconscious, this is always about the shoes. It’s never about a movement disorder. It’s never about balance, It’s standing, in the shoes, by my coworker’s desk, talking to him about a design project, and then I’m walking with intent to the office door. I smile at him, I say, I’ll be right back! Then I walk out the door, and make sure it closes all the way behind me; I even make it a few steps to a lobby area.

And then I stop, and I look both ways before I cross into the long hallway. I turn right. I pause. I take off the shoes.

And now I’m running. No, I’m not running, I don’t do that anymore. But I am moving as quickly as I can, in, if you can believe it, pantyhosed feet. It’s silent.

It’s deafening.

I’m taking a bathroom break, no big deal. I get there, always looking around.

I get what I came for, and in the stall I put the shoes back on. Anyone who looks under here sees the shoes. I walk out and smile at the woman washing her hands, and then I do the same as she did. I wash my hands. And I walk out another door into the hallway. I look down the hall. Damn. It’s really long.

I think about Michael, back at his desk. I think about how much I like working with him, how we click in the work, how grateful I am to have the opportunity to create with him and to learn. But I look both ways before I head back to the office because getting there means taking off my shoes.

This is a vibrant space with multiple business operations, and no one here is without shoes. But I take the shoes off, and I skitter back to my office door.

I pause.

I look around.

I put on my shoes, and I open the door.

Michael is still working but looks up to say something like, Let’s keep going.

I say yes.

But what I want to tell you about is the shoes.


A version of this essay was originally published by PD Wise in May 2021,