It first disappears in late December, four months after we move in.
My boyfriend, Forrest, is about to leave for work when he opens our apartment door to grab his Red Wing boots from the hallway. We live in a hobbit hole of an apartment in Whittier, so we keep our shoes out to prevent the snowmelt from drowning us. It’s common practice in our building. Our neighbors – including the lion-maned hippie and the guy whose dog won’t pay attention to me – leave their shoes out, too.
“Hey Leif,” Forrest calls from the doorway. “Where’s your other boot?”
Assuming he's telling another lame dad joke, I ignore him.
“No, seriously,” he says. “Check it out.”
I join Forrest and peer into the hallway. He’s right. My left boot is gone.
In another situation, I might assume someone stole it. Perhaps they tried to get away with both boots, but heard a door open and scampered off. But these are shitty boots. I bought them at my favorite Ace Hardware in Michigan for something like $30. They aren’t sexy or hip; they’re puffy and black with childish pink laces. Meanwhile, Forrest’s perfectly good pair of $200 Red Wings are also in the hallway, just as available for the taking. There’s no reason why anyone should want to steal my boots, let alone a single boot without its partner.
I set out on a search. I figure someone’s dog must have grabbed my boot without the owner realizing it, so I start by running downstairs to scan the backyard. No luck. I close the door and turn around and then I see it: my boot is on one of the steps leading to the basement. It looks like it’s been thrown there. I grab it and sprint back to our unit as though I’ve just seen the nun demon from The Conjuring 2.
I tell Forrest what happened. We chuckle in our discomfort, and move on.
Fast forward to last Friday. I’m layered with Spandex and ready to walk to Los Campeones, the gym near our apartment building. I typically walk there in my boots and change into my gym shoes when I arrive, so I don’t slip and die on the treadmill.
I open the apartment door and look for my boots. Red Wings? Check. Forrest’s shitty gym shoes?
Check. My boots? One is there. The same boot as last time is gone.
“Forrest, where’s my boot?” I ask.
“What do you mean?”
“My boot is missing again,” I tell him. “We have to go find it.”
“Okay, let me put some pants on,” he says.
I have no time for pants. I leave him there and conduct my preliminary search, starting with the stairwell where I found the same boot a few days prior. Nothing. I check the front stairwell. Empty. I pace the first and second floor hallways. Nope.
I stop back at our apartment. Forrest has pants on and he’s ready to investigate. I tell him I’ve looked everywhere.
“What about the basement?” he asks.
“Uh no, everywhere except there.”
I take his hand and we descend the two front stairwells to the basement, a filthy funhouse with cream-colored walls, blood red floors, and a hallway lined with mismatching doors.
Forrest and I study the ground.
“I don’t see anything,” Forrest says. “What about you?”
“Oh shit,” I say, staring straight ahead. I point to the wall and Forrest’s gaze follows.
My boot is perched on an electrical box near the ceiling.
“No way,” Forrest says.
“Are you messing with me?” I ask.
“Dude, I’m just as freaked out as you are,” he says.
I take a picture and tell Forrest to grab the boot and shake it out. It’s empty. No threats, no explanations, no bloody weapons – nothing.
Forrest leaves for work, and I text my landlord.
I spend the rest of the day alone in our apartment. The door is double-locked and my music stays low. Every noise stirs me: footsteps, falling ice, wood snapping as it expands. I call for my pitbull mix, Little Moon, and hold her to my chest. I check under the bed, and in the closet, and around my desk.
There is no ending to this story – no tidy conclusion to ease my nerves. I have both of my boots, but no suspects or motives, and there’s an eerie feeling in my 100-year-old apartment building. Have I unconsciously made enemies? Did my Kate Bush dance-alongs send someone over the edge? Am I being haunted? Or is this the most passive-aggressive maneuver in the history of Minnesota Nice? I don’t know. Either way, I'm afraid.
We keep my boots in the apartment over the weekend, but leave Forrest’s gym shoes out. He opens the apartment door early each morning to see if they’ve been moved. They haven’t. Forrest's gym shoes are in the same spot they’ve been since he shunned exercise. So, it isn’t random. My boots are being targeted.
We want to catch the culprit in action. On Sunday night, I place my boots in the hallway.