Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot

After the WWDC keynote four months ago, I saw Steve, up close.

He looked old. Not old in a way that could be measured in years or even decades, but impossibly old. Not tired, but weary; not ill or unwell, but rather, somehow, ancient. But not his eyes. His eyes were young and bright, their weapons-grade intensity intact. His sweater was well-worn, his jeans frayed at the cuffs.

But the thing that struck me were his shoes, those famous gray New Balance 992s. They too were well-worn. But also this: fresh bright green grass stains all over the heels.

Those grass stains filled my mind with questions. How did he get them? When? They looked fresh, two, three days old, at the most. Apple keynote preparation is notoriously and unsurprisingly intense. But not so intense, those stains suggested, as to consume the entirety of Jobs’s days. There is no grass in Moscone West.

Surely, my mind raced, surely he has more than one pair of those shoes. He could afford to buy the factory that made them. Why wear this grass-stained pair for the keynote, a rare and immeasurably high-profile public appearance? My guess: he didn’t notice, didn’t care. One of Jobs’s many gifts was that he knew what to give a shit about. He knew how to focus and prioritize his time and attention. Grass stains on his sneakers didn’t make the cut.


Late last night, long hours after the news broke that he was gone, my thoughts returned to those grass stains on his shoes back in June. I realize only now why they caught my eye. Those grass stained sneakers were the product of limited time, well spent. And so the story I’ve told myself is this:

I like to think that in the run-up to his final keynote, Steve made time for a long, peaceful walk. Somewhere beautiful, where there are no footpaths and the grass grows thick. Hand-in-hand with his wife and family, the sun warm on their backs, smiles on their faces, love in their hearts, at peace with their fate.

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