Cayden pulls on socks getting ready for baseball practice. His are always knee-high, with exaggerated prints: the pizza socks, the Hamilton socks, that Patriots pair, the striped number he stole from my drawer.
He’s inching his Einstein socks up and I remark the fact that, “Dude—you’ve a huge hole in your heel.”
“Einstein never wore socks, so I don’t think he’d care.” And he goes back to the business of finding shoes and remembering how to tie his laces.
“He didn’t wear socks?”
“No,” Cayde shrugs. “Everyone knows that. Einstein didn’t wear socks.”
I don’t wear socks, but I’m not Einstein either. I just like natty loafers, and wear my pants rolled half up the calf. Socks are not in my sartorial bag of tricks.
I didn’t know Einstein never wore socks. I knew he played violin, was a chain-smoker, married his cousin, was impressively depressed. I didn’t know E=MC2 had a dress code or lack thereof.
“Really? No socks? Ever?”
Einstein’s face is torn in half, his white hair exaggeratedly contouring Cayde’s ankle while Cayde stress-tests the thread count. He yanks and yanks.
“Nope. He didn’t like socks.”
“Don’t pull them up too much, Dude—you’re gonna rip them.”
“I’ll have my cleats on. Doesn’t matter.” Cayde is providing me a sneak preview of adolescence while lacing his Pumas. In five years, the waters will be rough, I’m certain.
‘Even on the most solemn occasions, I got away without wearing socks and hid the lack of civilisation in high boots’, Einstein wrote.
‘Of Socks and Civilsation’ could be a good book title, else a manifesto. Footwear is a low benchmark when it comes to measures of civility—just ask Jesus, or Ghandi—so I let Einstein’s yarn-torn face go, and let Cayde tug on his shoes without further nagging.
Cayde’s so big now. He’s so big, nearing clumsy with his growing body and pre-adolescent lack of decorum. He has thick limbs and expressive eyes, eyes full of brown, irises doe-like. When we’re mid-argument, he opens his blinkers wide—tries always to get the last word in, as if my tumult of verbage is a car coming and he has to stand, freeze, and deliver one last deer-grunt before getting run over by a grille chromed with rhetoric.
“I’m sorry, Kid. I’m sorry.” I say this to myself later—not to him–when I have a bed-sheet around me, when I’m contrite and looking at the ceiling, arranging pillows. I’m pretty good about apologizing in real time, just not always. It hurts. It really hurts to fuck up. My job is not to fuck him up.
‘When I was young,’ Einstein wrote in another letter, ‘I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in a sock. So I stopped wearing socks.’
There are pragmatics involved, apparently, when measuring civility. Einstein’s big toe was unnaturally long, and footwear became a problem. So he forewent shoes and wore sandals instead. Sandals with suits. Not exactly GQ, but it worked.
Next to being bare-foot, he laid out a blueprint as to how the universe was founded, how it could function on certain rules, some being quantum and not exactly understandable, but he took walks and smoked his pipe and blew blue smoke in the Austrian hills, thinking.
“I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.”
We all need to calm down, habits or no. Scientists are crazy when they say, ‘Objective.’ Same with writers. There is nothing that universalizes everything. The world’s just a fantastic and varied place, and there is nothing that makes for an even playing field, regardless of smarts, tarts, and, in the end, difference.
I could shout at the rim of a canyon; the echo supposing to be my own voice. Should be. Most likely it won’t be. People yell back.
Cayde puts his cleats on.
I stop him there.
“You’ll do good, Kid.”
I don’t want him to say anything else. Nothing else.
“You’ll do good, Kid.”
And I stop him.
“You’ll be FINE, dude.”
People don’t believe in me, I believe in him, so this is a halfway solution. Blind leading the blind; I help Cayde with his laces.
“You look great, Kid.”
“Love you, Kid. Let me help you with those shoes.”
And civilisation is lost, apparently, as the shoes go on, the forfeit of socks; still‘E’ continues to equal something.