Edited by Chandra Hazebroek.
One of my responsibilities for Indriya is the creative writer for our marketing campaigns. Now and again, we land a project, which is ‘right up my alley’. These projects allow me to delve into my passion for creative writing and I take these opportunities to hone my writing skills by crafting weekly short stories.
Below is this week’s short story, Pumped Up Kicks.
A memoir of sorts about the first time my eldest sister Chandra, aka Cha-Cha, took me – a little eleven-year-old Indo/Aussie boy – to buy my very first pair of expensive ‘kicks’. Set in my hometown Perth, Western Australia, this is a coming-of-age story of a first-generation Australian, Indonesian.
Pumped-up kicks was a term I was unfamiliar with until I was eleven years old. I was more accustomed to either Kmart (very similar to America’s Walmart) or hand-me-down kicks, for my little, bony Indonesian feet.
My life got turned upside down, one glorious afternoon, when Cha-Cha said,
“Bro, it’s time you get some proper kicks.”
Kicks. What even are kicks? Little did I know how one purchase would be so impactful. A rite of passage of sorts. The term kicks, derived from American slang in the early 1900s and has become used in the modern-day mainstream, specifically for sneakers, as the most fashionable shoes. It was a form of status amongst our pop culture society, and one that I really didn’t care for – that was until I got my first pair of pumped-up kicks.
Cha-Cha took me into the hustle and bustle of Perth city. It was winter, and I vividly remember feeling the biting chill of the cold wind as it swirled around grey skies, and nestled into the outstretched hats of the abundant homeless huddled against building corners. I remember looking at all the homeless people and feeling a great sense of appreciation for my single-parent mother. A tiny, outspoken Indonesian woman, whom I refer to as Ibu, mother.
We approached Footlocker, a two-level store filled to the brim with dazzling sneakers in hundreds of different styles and colourways. I likened it to being a candy store for adults. My Ibu would refer to this shop as ‘the too expensive shoe shop’.
I remember how nervous and out of place I felt as I glanced up at my sister. Incredibly cool, calm and collected; she stood tall in her skinny-leg jeans, fitted blank tank top, a loose green scarf casually wrapped around her neck, and of course, her pumped-up kicks. I came to learn that they were limited addition camo Adidas superstars. I remember glancing down at my hand-me-down kicks feeling embarrassed and kampungan, from the village.
As soon as we stepped foot into Footlocker, a pimply, gangly teenage boy approached my sister. He donned his referee looking uniform with pride. Black basketball shorts, a black and white striped t-shirt, and of course, the latest pair of fresh pumped-up kicks. The great Air Max.
“Hey, how you doing? Can I help you?” he asked us awkwardly.
I didn’t want to seem uninformed, yet I didn’t dare to reply. As always, my sister took charge.
“Yep, I’m after some Jordans for my little brother,” Cha said effortlessly.
Jordans? I thought we were here for kicks? I scratched my head in confusion.
We were taken to the Nike section and my sister perused the aisles with skill, before coming across a pair of blue, black and white Jordans.
“Adek, try them on.” Cha said, referring to me as ‘little brother’ in Indonesian.
I gingerly slipped off my ten-dollar hand me downs to reveal sockless feet. Cha raised one eyebrow. Pimply teenager in referee outfit raised both eyebrows. I curled my toes inwards.
The pimply teenager gave me a pair of dank, used socks from the sock bin. I recall slipping on the Jordans and my heart (and feet) sang in joy. I will forever remember that feeling.
The next day in school, I strutted into class wearing my immaculate Air Jordan 3s. My mates ogled my fresh kicks, and I felt like a king.
I should get more of these, my little eleven-year-old self thought smugly. This was just the beginning of a life-long love affair with pumped-up kicks.