At the bottom of the cupboard underneath my kitchen sink, tucked away on the left-hand side there sits an unremarkable old shoebox, untroubled for the best part of a year. It is late March, 2021 and the pleasing, functional musk which emanates from that unloved recess next to the scouring pads, glass cleaner, mopheads and bleach has started tickling the senses each time the cabinet door swings open, possessed of a present tension I could never quite have imagined even twelve months previously.
This perfectly ordinary manilla box has started taking on an emblematic life of its own. It is as if the documentary film director of my domestic life suddenly decided to turn its gaze adroitly to the places never peaked at before and animate them into life. The box contains a tortoiseshell shoehorn, brown, black and clear boot polish, a hardy leather brush handed down from my maternal granddad five years before he died, several scuffed cloths, bruised from the industrious lacquer of overuse, a very rudimentary sewing kit and half a dozen spare pairs of shoelaces. Suddenly, they feel like the individual stars of a movie canned before its production.
The cardboard box under the sink used to get at least a once weekly airing, in order to put the ritualistic finishing touches to steady preparations for a Saturday night out. I’d never clocked the ceremonial significance of these regular appearances until they stopped. But over the years, from first learning that to care about what you wear is a pretty good indicator of caring who you are, its accrued value has heightened with each passing season. For the last year, the shoebox under the sink, the one that didn’t even know how special it was has laid dormant. Because who, in all honesty dresses up when there is nowhere to go? When even the macabre occasion of a distant family member’s funeral is beamed into the house on a laptop screen.