I slipped my phone out of my kangaroo pocket to discretely snap a photo of the couple, matching in Adidas tracksuits. Justin needs to see this, I thought; a parlay to the not one but two times I caught pairs in matching Air Max 90s, bookending travel.
Tennis ball green accented the sneakers on the feet of the new and very much smitten couple on my way out to Zurich. “This could be us but you playing” I captioned it, demonstrating my JV sneakerhead status AND the fact that I was extremely online.
In the same airport six days later, I saw a cool dad and his even cooler kindergarten son wearing not just matching Nikes, but the same matching Nikes as the previous couple.
“Okay, now this is getting weird,” I quipped beside the blurry photo.
About a month passed and a thick envelope appeared in my mailbox. Jillakiss, it announced in Sharpie. No last name.
Inside was a gift card for the exact dollar amount, including shipping, for a pair of neon 90s. “I didn’t know your shoe size,” Justin wrote.
He was supposed to be my husband’s friend, his fraternity brother from another era. “Justin’s mine now,” I informed everyone. And he was—my in-person friend, my online friend when the pandemic hit and banished everyone to the isolation of working from home. Justin was also Black, which only matters in this story because I am not, but occasionally have questions about Blackness.
“I have a race question,” I typed, after a very nice Black man at the grocery store complimented my smile, “how do Black people seem to know I’m an ally?”
With a caveat that this of course was a massive generalization, Justin sent me a few sincere paragraphs, summing it up with this:
a swag, a stance, the way you speak, eye contact, it’s kinda natural and quick
We continued the conversation, then loped back into our usual banter about leftovers and Globle scores and how we spent our holidays. I thought to myself how glad I was to have a friend like Justin, for race questions and in general.
I thought better of sending the photo of the tracksuit couple; it felt like more of a violation than the sneaker appreciation pics.
If you’re waiting for something foreboding to happen to Justin because this is written in the past tense, well, it doesn’t. But you know what did? I shared a row with the matching couple.
“I like your tracksuits,” I said, sliding into the window seat.
“I like yours too,” the woman said. I looked down and saw I too was wearing Adidas warm-ups.
When the drink cart came around, I ordered a coffee, black. The couple also asked for coffee, theirs with cream and sugar.
“Easiest row ever,” the flight attendant remarked.