by Claire Howorth
Once upon a very recent time not so many weekends ago, my spirit suffered a bruise. An emotional hematoma. Steve Winwood’s oeuvre on repeat did little good. Screaming into my pillow until hoarse was fun, but it felt far too pathetic and extreme an effect.
I wandered listlessly through downtown, chain smoking, looking at my reflection in store windows to see if I was as visibly depressed on the outside as I was within. I probably just looked incredibly vain.
And then it occurred to me: it was going to take that hackneyed excuse to buy when you’re bummin’. Good old fashioned retail therapy. But a couple great steals at the Bendel‘s sale weren’t going to cut it.
My plunge into unhappiness was sudden. Resurfacing was going to have to be forceful enough to give me the bends, meaning only: really, truly, heartbreakingly beautiful — and duly expensive — shoes.
Not just the average pump, but specific ones—a duo the cobbler could only have made with me in mind, a pedestrian representation of everything I needed to feel like again: sanguine, sexy, polished, and simultaneously unyielding and delicate. With 5-inch heels on which to rise to any occasion, stand tall in the face of gloom, for a girl who would be strutting on faith.
Once my mind conjured the remedy, the shoes radiated there, a constant, crystalline vision in smooth red wood and slick black patent leather, the twinkling toe a come-hither wink, a narcotic to my funk.
I set up on Broadway, a sartorial sniper with 49th & Fifth in my sights. Stopping just once for coffee, I was a woman in motion, hustling through yellow lights, weaving madly through the Union Square greenmarket, knocking into tourists’ armfuls of shopping bags.
Forty-odd blocks later, the dervish I’d become paused at the door to Saks and sighed deeply in anticipated relief, a junkie about to take needle to vein. I looked down at my scuffed Chucks and pressed through the doors. The gush of warm air and overfragrant makeup ladies weakened my knees and my palms began to sweat.
Lancome, Estee Lauder, Givenchy… The Chanel counter loomed, mid-floor, another obstacle… Wait, wouldn’t that shiny Black Satin nail polish be such a compliment to the gleam of patent leather clacking on my feet below? But a prelude to a kiss. Twenty-some dollars poorer, new lacquer in purse, I headed up the escalator.
There, in its own zip code, lay destiny. Perched at every angle were rainbows of color, infinities of styles, toute la couture les pieds! And there in the middling chaos of New Jersey fur and Park Avenue botox were my shoes. My soles. My soul.
The saleslady must have recognized the zealous expression on my face and came right over. I gave my size, holding my breath, hopeful. She frowned and apologized—that’s the most popular size. Dilemma! But she could order them for me?
No, I was Veruca Salt and I wanted them now. Right now.
And I knew the place.
Thanking her over my shoulder, now feverish, I floated down the escalator and ran across 50th to Madison, heading north. I ticked off the blocks, annoyed I couldn’t move faster.
Twelve minutes later I burst through the revolving doors of my favorite department store.
Breaking a sweat, I plowed through the sale area millers-around toward the sweet oasis of new inventory. There they were again. My shoes. Deliverance was a credit card swipe away. I glanced at the three Italian women on the sofas and ottomans surrounding me. Their smooth, tan hands fluttered over box upon box. How could they, blind takers of any and all, possibly understand my frantic quest?
“Renegade” – Eminem ft. Jay-Z (mp3)
My shabby Saturday garb was clammy and my furrowed face must have betrayed a practiced façade of calm. Hand shaking, I snatched the display heel and held it up to the salesgirl. Two words and a number: A 41, please. She nodded and disappeared behind a curtain.
While waiting, I stroked the display shoe, forlorn looking without its mate. I tugged at the heel strap, a slingback slingshot to propel me back towards joy. I slowly ran my fingers along the bottom, from the heel tip up to the arch, and back down the slope to the ball — one fluid, gorgeous sole, running blood-red to the glossed onyx top.
The salesgirl was headed back, box in hand, smile on face. Nestled perfectly in cardboard coffers was my salvation. I gently pulled them out and slipped them on, pulling the backstrap up over the curve of my heel, my foot arcing, faintly orgasmic in the way a Barbie doll’s feet remain perma-poised in Stepford-like expectancy of sex.
I stood up, vaulted almost a half-foot taller, assertive, and with newfound reserve. I took a couple of kicking, sassy steps.
“Shine a Light” – The Rolling Stones (mp3)
I took a deep, compunctionless breath, blinking one long time as the girl wandered off to process my purchase. As I pranced and danced around the East Village that night, several cups past tipsy but ever careful not to jam the precious heels in sidewalk cracks, my life no longer stood a loaded gun.
Claire Howorth is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She last wrote in these pages about lyme disease and country singers.
“Shine a Light (live at Royal Albert Hall)” – Spiritualized (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Jennifer Beals’ taste in photography.
The web exposes all.
Inability to comment on anything of substance.