It’s always the shoes. Other men in my line of business say it’s the photographs or the stacks of letters and postcards. One chap I spoke to said it was the telephone, it always rang as he went about his work. I’ve never met anyone else who had this happen, certainly it’s never happened to me. Neighbours drop by from time to time of course, that’s only natural. Sometimes I let them in for one last look but I never let them take anything. Not even the shoes, though heaven knows why they would want them. They do though, some of them. Shoes and suits.
All shoes make me feel this way, even those bought years ago by a child hoping their father or mother would again walk in the park and chase the grandchildren. The new shoes, those never worn and still packed with tissue like discarded handkerchiefs, even those affect me. You’d think I’d find them pristine, shop-happy but no, those too evade the light and crouch in wardrobes waiting for their master to return.
When I open a front door, unsealing it to begin my work, I hold my breath. I’m not superstitious, how could I be? I know the owner is dead and I’m only here to empty the house. But I also know there will be shoes slumped somewhere in a corner. I can’t bear their sadness. I deal with the watchful eyes of family photographs or memories of foreign holidays written onto plates on the kitchen wall but shoes, I escape the broken leather of shoes.
I’m thinking of retiring soon though. Families are selling on eBay these days. They can get more for their parents’ lives there. As we move further away from the great wars even the diaries and collections are becoming rarer. It’s hard making a living this way. Besides, my feet hurt from climbing into the lofts where childhoods are stored.