I loved her. Cherished her, even. Spent countless hours, wasting away with her. Smelling her. Touching her. Even cleaning parts of her every chance I got. My sneaker collection in college was my real first love. That was, until the other her came along.
It all started my freshmen year in college. It was the first party of the year at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and I was one of the young, cocky motherfuckers on campus, fresh off the bus from Northern Virginia arriving on basketball scholarship. I was unlike most people there. I looked unlike anyone there. Not because I was black, but because I didn't really wear things that others were familiar with—from my jersey down to my crispy Air Force 1s.
At the party, I was introduced to a sophomore, the star pitcher on the softball team. I was smitten from the moment I laid eyes on her. What'd she do? She scoffed at me and stole my hat. I spent the rest of the night pursuing her, undoubtedly scuffing my precious white and blue Forces, but I didn't care. I'd walk those sneakers through hot lava just to be with her. I spent the next three years simpin' to the nth degree. I was a god damn embarrassment, people. Begging. Prostration. Self-immolation. I was a living, breathing SMH, and I didn't care.
My sneakers were a distant second to her.
In that same time frame, I was splitting time building upon another part of my life I held near and dear to my heart. I'd like to think that, over the span of three and a half years, I had found my main bitch: my sneakers. My collection wasn't huge. Never more than 50 pairs. But damn, it was dope (to me at least). Especially after I in the effort of saving that $12 gameday meal stipend and $75 allowance I got every two weeks, never deviating from the plan set out to cop that next pair of kicks on my list. Dunks. An Air Force 1 here and there. Even a Jordan or two.
It started with "Haze" Dunk Lows, then I moved on to Supreme Dunk Lows, and eventually on to Supas, Jedis, Halloween Co.Jps, Samba Co.Jps, Viotech, and Pharrells. Each pair gave me a sense of nothing else could quite match. Except her.
In fact, I didn't quite feel right wearing much of my collection around her. I felt like I was alienating my chances with her because of my obsessive hobby. If she knew how many hours I spent scouring the 'net to fulfill this materialistic void. I'd secretly ask myself, "Who wants to date a guy who collects sneakers?" Not only collects them, but spends hundreds of dollars for them to sit in a box, only seeing the light of day if I was taking less than a 100 steps on a dry, clean, and even surface. But it was never about my sneakers with her. And to me, my sneakers were a distant second to her.
I didn't even think twice on my final decision.
By the time we got together my junior year, it was only about a year before we both began talking about taking "the next step." But I pictured taking that next step in my black cement Jordan IIIs, hand-in-hand, with a big-ass rainbow behind us, frolicking a field of fresh turf. However, grass could fuck my whole shit up, ya know?
But it soon dawned on me that keeping that vision with my sneakers intact may not be a viable option. My collection's days were numbered. You see, once you step foot into a jewelry store that sells their soul for the best of the 4 Cs, your full-fledged flourish turns to nightmares of raging fires kept ablaze by crisp $100 bills. Or even worse: your Supreme Blazers. But, all I could do was think back to that night I first met her, making it home that night to find my Forces drenched in mud or doo-doo or a combination. They are trash to me now, but, in essence, they always were compared to her.
The time came to make a decision: give up the kicks I had amassed over the last 40 some odd months, spending just about every penny that came trickling into my bank account, or wait a few more until I got a job to afford it? To be completely honest, I didn't even think twice on my final decision. Those kicks wouldn't steal my side of the covers at night or eat my last Bagel Bite, but they also wouldn't show me compassion, genuine interest in my well-being, or love.
So, over the next 16 months, I spent days and nights setting up posts on Niketalk and Sole Collector—never settling for less than I needed to pay off the loan I took to pay for the bling. But the sales were rolling. Boy, were they rolling. I started with "Haze" Dunk Lows. Moved on to Supreme Dunk Lows. Eventually on to Supas. Jedis. Halloween Co.Jps, Samba Co.Jps, Viotechs, Pharrells. Each pair that had once made me feel like the proverbial big man on campus would now fund something with a much bigger purpose.
I purchased the ring early December 2006 for an undisclosed, but ungodly amount of college-sneaker-collection funded dollars, proposed on December 18th, she said yes as she wept over a bowl of linguini marinara. We got married the following November and, to this day, she still questions every sneaker purchase I make.
The truth of it all is this: During my time with them, I saw my sneakers as my centerpiece. My attention to footwear paid in dividends because they made me look and feel unique in a drab, conforming environment. And that was my intention while wearing them: To differentiate myself enough to garner attention. But once you get the attention of "the one," with or without the help of the sneakers, then what? Asking myself that very question 7.5 years ago and not being able to come up with the right answer was the only answer I needed.
I still look back on some of the kicks I let go of, knowing I could easily drop the coin to pick them back up, but then I look at her and feel a sense of pride because, in the end, I love her, cherish her and want to spent countless hours wasting away with her.
Nick Grant is a contributor to Complex and is happily married. You can follow him on Twitter here.