High Heels

Image of Short Story
She walks on high heels, her eyes cast down, determined, oh so firmly, to do the right thing. Her dress is ironed, and even though short, it nicely swings around her beautiful legs with each step and each gust pushing her ahead. Pushing her almost against her will. She goes to see her mother. Her mother needs advice. But what can she tell her? At the corner two construction workers whistle at her, and she ignores them. She continues to walk carefully in order not to stumble on her high heels. “Are you sure you want to wear these,” her husband had asked when she was leaving. “Sure,” she’d said, as if she hadn’t heard the concern in his voice—or was it criticism? But these were beautiful shoes!

At the next corner she enters a bookstore to buy something to read in case her mother makes her wait. She is serious about reading. She strolls along the bookshelves and then discovers J.C. Oates’ Zombie. Oh, she meant to read Zombie for a longtime, but something had always kept her from buying it. Now she gets it as a paperback. She leaves the bookstore with a strange feeling in her stomach. She might need to eat something, that’s it. The wind chases a plastic bag ahead of her. It looks funny. Four thirty, and her mother would arrive at around five, so she said. She slows her pace, casually checks out the store windows on her way. With the last sunbeam touching upon her eyes, she enters the Pub.

Few people are at the Pub at this time. She picks a table near the window to have more light for reading. "Ginger ale," she says when the waiter arrives. She looks around. A man is sitting at the bar having a beer. The music box plays Moon River. What a dreamy song, she thinks and reaches into her purse in order to pull out Zombie, but right then the waiter comes and brings her the ginger ale. The ice cubes softly tinkle, as he puts down the glass. “It’s on him,” he says pointing with his chin to the man at the bar. She feels briefly confused, wants to reject it. The man at the bar raises his glass to her. She doesn’t know if she should do the same with her ginger Ale.

The waiter is gone, and so is the music. There is a buzz on her phone, her mother texts that she’ll be a bit late. The man at the bar scrutinizes her. She smiles, casts her eyes down, feels embarrassed, and reaches for her book. “May I join you for a moment,” the man says, all of a sudden standing right there with his tight jeans leaning on the chair in front of her. “I’m sure you’re having a date. But in the meantime—it would do me some good to talk with you. Would that be okay?”

Her heart is pounding, and she doesn’t know how to respond, but she slightly nods and thinks, soon my mother will be here. “Sure,” she says and sips at her ale. “I’ve never seen you here before,” the man says, “you must be from someplace else.” “No,” she responds, “I live close by.” “Oh,” he says, “then you must have heard about this freak accident at Washington Square, where a young woman on a bike was killed by a truck.” “No,” she says, “I haven’t.” “Well it was my girlfriend,” he says. “It happened half a year ago, and still I can’t get over it! The police report faulted her for reckless driving. I don’t believe it!” He squints and twitches his eyes, and she says: “I’m sorry for your loss.” “Thank you,” he replies and sighs deeply.

Her phone buzzes again and she looks down wondering about her mother, but it’s a cancellation of her yoga class on Friday. When she looks up again the man has leaned back. His hands in his jacket pockets he studies her intently. He wears his shirt open, a golden chain with a cross around his neck. “My girlfriend is dead, and I have all her stuff in my apartment,” he says. “I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t throw it out. But I can’t live with it either. She had no friends. Only a few months earlier she’d come here from Venezuela to go to Art School.” He peers at her, and she doesn’t know what to say.

“I have a weird question, he continues. Would you come with me and see if you’d like to have some of her stuff, even just one piece? If I knew that something she brought to me would live on with someone else, I could move on. I could throw out the rest. Would you do this for me?” She feels appalled, strangely threatened. “I can’t,” she says, “I’m waiting for my mother.” “It would only take a few minutes,” he says leaning forward and looking straight into her eyes, “just five minutes at the most. Please, I can’t tell you how much this would help me! It’s not a lot to look at, just books, a bit of jewelry, some silk scarves, things like that....”

She has finished her ginger ale and feels light headed. She really should eat something. Maybe she could text her mother to meet at a pizzeria. “Come-on,” says the man, “for you it’s no big deal, for me it is!” And somehow almost against her will, she gets up, up on her high heels that make her feel a little wobbly, and despite everything, for sure, she takes her purse and follows the man towards the exit. And just as they are leaving, it is as if in a dark corner on the other side of the Pub she sees her mother bent over her phone to check her messages.