Hamburger Socks

Ali Neill
4 min readJul 6, 2021

I walked into the room and there was nothing left. It was empty. Everything was gone. My footsteps made an echo as I moved towards the window to look down at the garden one last time. All I remember feeling was heaviness and fatigue. Turning around, my eyes were still looking down and that’s how I noticed it. In the corner of the room, hidden partially by the partly open closet door and the shadows, there was an old pair of socks. A misshapen ball of white and grey, like a soft rock. I crouched down to pick it up and pulled the two socks apart. The dust made me cough. “That’s not dust, it’s pixy powder! It’s lucky”. The words came into my mind instantly and I smiled to myself. No wonder we never got any housecleaning done, with those kinds of fanciful ideas. He used to make everything magical.

These socks were a birthday present from my sister. They had little hamburgers on them. She’d bought similar ones for Mike with “cheat days” written on them and thought it would be cute to see father and son matching. There was a big hole in one of them from when Philip chewed through the fabric, thinking he had real hamburgers on his feet. Actually, that was Mike’s fault. He told him they were real. He said the hamburgers tasted like fabric while they were on the sock but if they were removed from it, they’d have the same delicious taste as a Burger King burger. We didn’t even like their food, but Mike said it was easy for a kid to understand that a company with a name like Burger King was royally good. Fit for kings! The day Philip actually came in with the piece of sock in his mouth looking very disappointed, I gave a very different look to Mike. He couldn’t stop laughing.

We wanted to get new ones, but they were a present. After that, Philip just wore them over different socks. His feet were always cold anyway, just like his father’s. I sighed and closed my eyes. I squeezed the socks. I could feel something inside them. There were stickers in the tips. Each one had a smiley face sticker and they both said “confidence”. “Walk with confidence”. Mike put those silly stickers in Philip’s shoes when he started school. Not sure how they ended up in the socks. He was such a shy child. After the first week, the teacher told us he stayed in one spot all throughout lunch time and that he didn’t move from his desk in class. The students were encouraged to move around the classroom to discover different activities, but Philip was just too damn shy. So, Mike came up with this idea of giving him a bit more confidence, literally. The stickers in his shoes (walk with “confidence”), the keyring on his bag (carry yourself with “confidence”), the belt (dress with “confidence”), the lunchbox (eat with “confidence”) … Mike even wanted me to write it on his nickers, but overly confident pooping didn’t seem necessary to me.

How could these dusty old socks be the only thing left? Tears ran down my cheeks and my throat tightened. I felt stuck. It was like I was seeing every appearance these socks had ever made in our lives. Every morning he tiptoed into our room, every breakfast with his feet dangling under the table, every race around the house looking for two of the same shoes… I could see the grubby socks in a sea of other dirty clothes going into the washing machine, and I could see me hanging them on the clothes’ horse after, good as new.

This was my only tie to them. “No honey, you mean this is your only sock to them”. That’s what Mike would’ve said. I’m sure of it. I can hear him still; I can hear him all the time. Does it make me a terrible mother if I say that it’s harder for me to feel Philip’s presence? Mike was all about jokes and being active. Phillip was quiet and gentle. He was a hugger. Randomly, he’d come into the kitchen and hug me, then run away. Or I’d be working on the computer, and he’d jump on the bed and hug me from behind. If we watched a movie in the evening, Philip sat between us with his head on my lap. He’d fall asleep well before the end of the film, but his arms still clung to me.

For a long time after it happened, when I found myself alone, I couldn’t sit still for more than 5 minutes; I couldn’t bare to feel my own hair brush my skin. A part of me wanted to claw at myself, like there was some yearning from inside me for human contact, but only the hugs and cuddles from Philip could calm the feeling. I had this burning, almost hysterical need for something that no longer existed.