By Jennifer Brennock
On the first day of this year, I purchased a pair of midnight shoes. These are no island shoes, no hippies-take-‘em-off-at-the-door-protect-the-carpet shoes, chores-to-do shoes, no hitch-to-town-slipper, no drying-off-after-the-beach clog. No, these are the kind of shoes meant to make noise on urban concrete. They click-slap, percussive on pavement, a statement of the sole. They singsong a duet. “I’m in a hurry. I have things to do. If you’re lucky, I’ll stop and talk to you.”
They are shoes that make my toes look small. They are shoes that make my calves look lean. They are shoes more suited to punctuating the movement of one leg sliding over the other when a short skirt is involved, and the hips jut, just slightly, in your direction while my elbow becomes one spread wing, and I pretend I didn’t notice you looking at me for longer than necessary. These are not shoes for collecting the mail.
And there is brand new underwear of black lace too and a long pink coat, and I think, “Now I am ready to take a new lover. Now I can. Now. Finally. Now. See how tall I am in these midnight shoes?” I have lift, return of buoyancy, armed with a compass calibrator, and I remember gravity is not the only force at work in the world. No one can knock me from the height of these heels.
I’d been lying in the middle of the road for the months before these shoes. Roadkill, I named myself, the roadkill he promised he would make me even as we were sharing our first dawns, and he was rearranging my furniture in his head over breakfast, making room for his things.
“You’ll make me roadkill someday. I know it,” I told him then.
“Experience it!” he returned.
The turning of a year and I scrape myself from the pavement, disgusted with my own marks of asphalt, and I buy a pair of shoes. “Bring them on,” I think now in these shoes. Bring on the first in a long line of men who I will savor like boxed candy and note their names and position. I will consume them quickly, only wrappers to clean up from the floor in the morning, and this is the new me, and no one even knows her yet. Isn’t this great? Isn’t it so pleasing to be vertical, to know what a horizon is again? It almost feels like spring.
Then the lover is here, and the new shoes remain in the closet, because we don’t need shoes for where we’re going. And he reminds me too much of a prince, and he kisses like we have all the time in the world when we both know it’s limited. And everything I do pleases him, and he can’t believe how good it is, and he says, “I can’t believe how good it is.” I smile up at him, my ear flat to his navel, hoping to hear the ocean inside. And I’m thinking the shoes were a right-good purchase.
But then, but then, he wraps the end of my hair around his finger and says I deserve to be treated well, and he means it, and I know he means it, but we both know he’s not applying for the job. And I can see it coming. It’s on the tip of his tongue. It’s struggling to fall from his bottom lip which is already parting, and I kiss him quick to keep it inside, but he pulls back and says it anyway. He says the last thing I want to hear from the one who got me on my feet again by laying me on the bed. So I threaten him with nipple twisting of the cruel variety if he says it, and he says it anyway. His hand closes around mine, halting my defense with overpower, and he says it.
“You’re so nice.”
I know what happens when they realize you really are that nice. It becomes a handicap. This is the disability that has kept me making my bed in the middle of the road as if the automobile has not yet been invented.
Then I find myself telling the lover about the man who agreed he would cause me sudden pain someday, and then did exactly that. I don’t know how to keep this scar hidden when we’re so naked and his hand is so politely tucked between my breasts. It is both too soon and too late for this disclosure. Our fingers make layers while I explain the scar, and also while I listen to him tell me about her: awesome, but with a fatal flaw he can’t live with. She’s bathing in his pupils when he says her name. All the while, the shoes are listening from the closet.
I never wore the fuck-me pumps that weekend, but I wore them every night for a week after the lover went back to the place he came from. I wore fuck-me pumps while I did the dishes, while I scrubbed the toilet, while I paid the bills, while I shifted the weight of single motherhood. And on these evenings the incense wafts across the room while the faint snoring of my son can be heard from the loft. I’m folding laundry, holding garments to my nose to see if I can smell temperature, and my favorite song comes on, and it’s a version I’ve never heard before, and the candles are flickering, and the fire is a warm cliché. And there is the sound of absolutely nothing else. And I think I finally know what happiness is, and this moment is it. And I’m not just propped up vertical now, I’m wearing midnight shoes to tower from the ground. And there is no one else who needs to see them.
When the phone rings, I say, “I don’t want to tell you what I’m doing right now.”
“Why not?” he wants to know.
“It’s not sexy,” I laugh, folding my son’s underwear.
“Lie to me then,” he says.
There is a low buzz on the line, a broken satellite between us, and I hear the dry suck of him lighting a cigarette, and I imagine him tucking his hair behind his ear with his right hand, one side, then the other, a girlish gesture that belies his rock and roll. I like this game, the pretending something is real, so I pour myself a glass of wine and take a seat on the couch. I am admiring my shoes when I begin a long, winding imaginary truth that takes two hours to tell.
Copyright Brennock 2011