I OWNED THE SHOE FOR ABOUT THREE WEEKS. THEN MY CREDIT-CARD
bill arrived. Drastic action was required.
"You can always buy a pair when they come out," Jen assured me.
"Yeah, but not with the real logo." I'd miss that bar sinister. As a certain French philosopher once said, "Man is the animal that says no."
But I couldn't say no to a certain credit-card company whose name is a four-letter word. So we called up Antoine to make sure he was working that day, said we had something important to show him, and went uptown.
Dr. Jay's, like hip-hop culture itself, appeared in the Bronx in 1975. They're still there and now all over town, selling shoes and tracksuits and all manner of sports gear made from synthetic materials with names like Supplex and Ultrah, space-age words to conjure images of robot courtesans.
"My man, Hunter," Antoine said, then gave Jen the Nod, which probably meant that he remembered what she'd said at the focus group and thought it had been pretty cool.
He led us to the back, through the good-natured chaos egged on by the store's awesome sound system: little kids running the carpet to test fit and feel, guys trying on jerseys to find that perfect length between waist and knee, reflective rainbows of team logos spinning on their racks.
We reached the sanctuary of the storeroom and squeezed ourselves between high shelves of boxes ranked by size and make, Antoine pushing a rolling library ladder out of our way.
"What's that smell?" he asked as the shoe box opened.
"Jet engine," Jen said matter-of-factly, unwrapping the shoe from its paper.
When it came into the light, Antoine's eyes began to shine. He took it gingerly from her hands, rotated it to every side in turn, checking eyelets, tongue, laces, tread.
A minute later he whispered, "Where did it come from?"
"Bootleg," Jen said. "But they were all destroyed. That's the last one as far as we know"
"The client will be doing a version," I said. "But this is the original."
He nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving the shoe. "They won't do it right. Not like this. Some committee will mess it up."
"And it'll never have that." I pointed to the anti-logo.
He laughed. "Guess I won't be wearing them to work."
"There's no them. Only one survived."
I swallowed. "The thing is, I have to sell it. Serious money problems."
He looked at me, waiting for the catch.
"I have to sell it, okay?" I said.
"Huh. Never figured you like that, Hunter. But if you need the money, you need it."
"I do," I said, sounding like the groom at a shotgun wedding.
"Well, you see, I've got this credit-card bill, and it's about a thousand dollars—"
It wasn't until we were out on the street, cash in hand, that I realized I could have asked for more.