Tuesday, July 23, 2013



She told him everything, so she decided to tell him this, regardless of consequence (she hoped there would be no consequence).

"So, after I left the dentist, I was walking home, and I passed that shoe store downtown. I figured I’d go in and look for a pair of black kitten heels for work. You know how I hate flats, and you threw out my old pair of black kitten heels because I was always complaining about how they hurt my feet, but never would've had the heart to throw them out myself…."

He was listening intently; where was she going? She figured for now he was focused on what he viewed to be her extravagant spending habits.

"All the black kitten heels that interested me, or would have been appropriate for work were too expensive, so I decided to peruse the sale rack. A red patent leather fetish looking pair with a five inch heel caught my eye…."

"For work?" His eyes bulged.

"No, I was off the work track by then. But the shoes were so cute and inexpensive! Seventy dollars, regularly, on sale for fifteen! I mean, I spend that a day on cigarettes."

They were sitting at the kitchen table, and she got up and went down the hallway towards her sleep chamber. She returned carrying a pair of shiny, candy- apple red heels that screamed sex, sex, sex!

"Wow," he said. His "wow" was that of a jaded parent, not a suddenly insatiable lover.

She didn't put the shoes on, instead, she held them by their heels as she spoke.

"Fifteen dollars! That’s nothing, even if I never have an opportunity to wear them. I’d gladly spend fifteen dollars just to see them in my closet and smile."

He blinked hard at her logic.

She continued. "By the time I left the shoe store, it had started to rain. Not heavy, but enough to fog up my glasses. I’m carrying the shoebox, another bag with a sandwich for later, and a newspaper, and I’m holding a coffee. I thought about calling you for a ride, but it really wasn’t that bad; the worst thing about it was my glasses. I’m walking on the grass, because once you pass the shopping center, the sidewalk ends, and I’m about to go under the railroad bridge, when out of the corner of my eye, I see a car stop in the middle of the road. I turn my head, and see a brown- haired man that I recognize from my work and he asks me if want a ride."

She left out how good looking the brown- haired man was. It was a detail she wouldn't have excluded if talking with anybody else.

"I’m going to be honest with you, and I hope you don’t get mad. Before meeting you, the man in the car was the only man to ever come into my work that I had even a remote passing interest in. But I found out pretty quickly that he was married, and gave up on it."

He took a sip of his coffee.

"But we still talk whenever he comes in, and there’s always been this sort of flirtatious vibe on his end. I did wonder if he was just really friendly, but I always ended up siding more with flirtatious. He has a daughter whose super smart, maybe even autistic smart, and a wife who is pretty, but heavy. He comes into my work with both of them, so it’s not like he's tried to hide his commitments. I didn't really think. I saw a familiar face, it was raining, so I figured, ok, I’ll get in the car."

He lit one of her cigarettes, and pulled the ashtray across the table.

"It was some kind of four- door Ford jobber, and I was surprised to see that the inside was a mess. There was stuff everywhere, garbage, and books, and he was listening to the Rolling Stones. I didn’t expect that. The mess, not the Stones. His daughter is so smart... They are always at the book store looking for books, so I guess I made the unconscious assumption that a person as scholarly as he appeared to be would have a neater car. Not that I ever thought about him, and his car, specifically, and not that I don't know that genius and disorder tend to go hand and hand. As soon as I sat down, I was aware of this tension. He asked me where I lived, and then mentioned that if it was far, we should go back into town and get gas. I wasn't sure how to respond to that, because the way that he said it, it sounded like an invitation. Let's go back into town and get gas.The tension was overwhelming to me, so I started babbling away, thinking I could talk over it, talk as a way of covering it up. I told him about going to the dentist, going to the shoe store, and then... and I realized that I had screwed up right away. I took the shoes out of the shoebox, and the whole undercurrent that I had been trying to hide from, I put it right out there in the open. And he said, just like you, he said, "Those shoes, for work?" And I tried to rescue myself. I said, "Nooo, they would be far too distracting for work." I was stepping in landmines of my own creation all over the place! And out of the corner of my eye, I could see that he had this weird smile on his face, like it was all out there now, the shoes proving that I was a sexual person, that I probably liked sex, and kinky sex too…."

She paused and put the shoes on the table.

"...And now that all that was confirmed, all he would have to do was create some other kind of opportunity. So of course he did. When we finally got to the house, he turns to me, and he says, "You know, we actually live pretty close together, and you like to walk, don't you? It would be nice to have a walking partner. Maybe you and I could go walking together, and you could bring those shoes..."

Monday, July 15, 2013


When I was in junior high, as an English assignment, the teacher had us write a paper about a fantasy dinner party, The Great Dinner Party of the Mind. Anybody could come to the party, living or dead.  She wanted old monarchs mingling with modern day celebrities, assassinated presidents sitting next to grandparents. I didn't take the assignment all that seriously, and remember two of my guests: Sid Vicious and Sharon Tate. I had known very little loss at that point in my life.

She was beautiful,
really she was.
But you’ll have to take my word for that now.
Harry Houdini promised his wife and friends
that after his death
they would hear from him.
But they never heard a sound.
I imagine her there with Houdini,
near the head of the table,
at the Great Dinner Party of My Mind.
A slightly different version from the one we wrote about for 8th grade English class,
the guest list amended by tragedy and time.
Whatever Houdini found once he got there,
I’d like to believe it was so great
he didn’t want to ruin the surprise.
But death may be one dinner party
where no guest dares to interrupt the host.

 © Fiona Helmsley