Pumps on Parnassus: A Love Story About Shoes
On my first night in Delphi, my favorite pair of high heels took me on a wild adventure. I’d worn them on the plane to Greece. They’d carried me through the airport in Amsterdam, where I’d had an impromptu coffee date with a man who claimed to be a Saudi Arabian prince. I’d worn them through the streets of Athens as I gasped over ancient wonders with the others in my study-abroad group. I’d taken my heels shopping in the Plaka, as I’d searched for souvenirs and enjoyed the maddening throngs. Just hours before, I’d strode confidently past the Tholos, seen where the Delphic Oracle made her pronouncements in verse, and scrambled over rocks looking for an ancient temple based on the scrawled directions from an obsessed graduate student.
That night, after a tame taverna dinner with our professor and his family, my classmates and I arrived at a local bar. We couldn’t wait for our first taste of ouzo, the anise-flavored liquor popular in Greece. We figured that we’d drink a little, dance a lot, and get back to the hotel sometime in the early hours of the morning. By the time we’d finished our first drinks, bodies packed the dance floor. Outside on the terrace, cool air and starlight beckoned. I stepped outside with a friend.
I glanced back at the packed bar, and then up at the mountain behind us.
“I wish I had time to climb that,” I sighed. “It’s too bad the bus leaves so early tomorrow.”
“You do have time,” my friend replied. “We can climb it now.”
Sheep bleated in a nearby pen and the air smelled like flowers. I glanced at the steep path that disappeared between two olives trees. I’d never be here again. I took a step toward the path.
My friend glanced down at my shoes.
“Do you need to go back and change into sneakers?”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. I stepped on the path and picked my way around the boulders as he leapt from stone to stone. We climbed in silence for a while. Every now and then, I’d turn back to glance down at the rapidly receding village. I could still see the lights of the bar, but the voices had faded. The only sounds were our steps on the path, the breeze in the olive leaves, and the burbling of a nearby spring.
We reached the crest of the hill and sat on a boulder, taking in the night sky, the village below, and the shadows of the mountains around us. Suddenly, a tiny strip of orange rent the darkness in front of us.
“What is it?” I gasped, watching in horror as it spread. We tried to figure out the source of the glow. Was it lava from a volcanic eruption? A forest fire? A bomb blast? Nothing made sense. I shivered as the color spread over the mountain. The curve of the full moon appeared. The ‘lava’ was moonrise. The twin peaks of Mount Parnassus, the legendary home of Pan and the nine muses in Greek Mythology, had created the illusion of an erupting volcano.
We sat watching the moon until we heard the howls of a pack of wild. Suddenly nervous and aware of our folly, we headed back down the mountain, more slowly than we’d climbed, still entranced by the beauty of the spring night. My beloved heels survived the trip, a little dirtier and more worn, but beautiful because we’d shared an adventure.