Written July 1995
Dull Frumpy Shoes
Joanne was usually pretty fashionable in what she wore; She said that her meticulous attitude in her choice of clothes reflected some sort of exaggerated compulsive behavior. If you took her word for it, you’d believe that she only dressed as well as she did because she was anal or something. She wasn’t like that though, its just that everything she wore looked good on her. Everything matched or looked cool. Everything, that is, except for this pair of shoes that she liked to wear far too often. Why do I bring this up? Well, you see, these shoes really bothered me. They weren’t clunky enough to be trendy, nor were they nice enough to wear with anything, well, nice. They were something a nurse might wear, only black. They were dull and frumpy. And I hated them.
It’s amazing how much a pair of shoes can matter, I mean, they are on your feet, and you would think that unless you are looking down at the ground when you meet someone, that you wouldn’t really notice; But, much as a maitre de shouldn’t wear tennis shoes with his tuxedo, nor should a debutante wear army boots at her debut, the discontinuity is all too readily apparent. I guess it isn’t, so much, that you really notice footwear, I think, what happens is, that you are drawn to it when it doesn’t work.
We were going to the mall when she first wore them. This was after first-date-hazards and sort of in that settling-down-period when the relationship isn’t so much blossoming, but kind of just growing. It’s when you stop being so blinded by the relationship and stop to take stock of who it is you actually have gotten involved with. Barry, my friend over at the drug store, likens it to “the morning after” syndrome, or the “end of the honeymoon.” Personally, I don’t know what to call it. I don’t usually do all that much thinking, it’s too depressing.
When I picked her up at her door I didn’t notice anything right away. I liked her hair, her make-up, her tan/khaki sleeveless top and matching billowy pants. It wasn’t until we were actually in the car that I was actually far away enough to notice her shoes. Black shoes could have worked, should have worked actually, if they had been any other pair. That day at the mall, all I could think about was how someone as beautiful as Joanne could wear such dull frumpy shoes.
How do you describe someone as beautiful as Joanne? If they were characteristic or even ugly, you could say something about them; As it was, Joanne was so beautiful as to practically defy description. She had no moles nor blemishes, her nose was the right size and her eyes were evenly matched. It was incredible. More so perhaps, because it was her very beauty that made her plain and indescribable. It was this plainness that made her so striking. I know I must sound like I am not making much sense, but make no mistake, when I first saw Joanne that spring day, I was so entranced that I ran chest first into a parking meter.
Running into that meter was a fortuitous event, even though it hurt terribly. The crash that sent me onto my butt, made her look my way, and while the other passerbys snickered and sneered, she smiled and covered her mouth with a gloved hand. Being dazed on your rear end does not put you in a position of great confidence when dealing with the opposite sex. To be honest, I wanted to disappear, or at least blend into the background, but being inconspicuous is also pretty hard sitting sprawled on a sidewalk.
She walked over in her black stockings and heels and asked me if I was all right. I must have been staring a little too long because she had one of those little smiles on her face. She put her purse into my hands and then reached around me and helped me up to my feet. I remember thinking that she was either really trusting or simply naive to put her purse into the hands of a stranger, but that thought was quickly dispelled by the notion that a well to do woman was lifting me to my feet. I know it is silly, but at the same time that I thought I was about to be terribly embarrassed, I thought I felt a certain warmth about her hands around my ribs. It felt as if there were years between us, kind of like we had known each other for a long time and that this was not an abnormal occurrence. It felt so comfortable that when she retrieved her purse and turned to leave, I felt, quite suddenly, a cold stab of panic; kind of like when you find that you have lost your wallet, only worse.
I have this loft apartment in the middle of the industrial district. It used to be a warehouse, but it’s been since converted into apartments. The rooms are spacious but sometimes it still feels a bit like a warehouse: Empty, you know? Joanne used to call it my hangar, on the account that the ceilings were so high. She didn’t like to spend time at my place, but we ended up there a lot. She had roommates and I didn’t, so it seemed the logical place to go. She just didn’t like it very much, she thought it was too dark and dank: I didn’t have much by way of lighting. The halogen lamp I bought seemed to lose itself in the tallness of the room and, instead of illuminating the place, it just seemed to cast terrible shadows across the walls and ceiling. Why Joanne thought it was dank I can’t really explain. To this day, I can’t smell the stuffiness and damp that she used to.
We used to talk a lot. She would tell me about her day at work, about the corporate bigwigs and the happenings in the office, and I would tell her about my day at the drugstore and all the happenings there. She didn’t like talking about philosophy though, she thought it was a waste of time talking about things that you couldn’t prove or measure, so we didn’t talk about that kind of stuff. She would get so excited about the craziest things. She bought into the Hollywood movie/TV thing with a passion. We didn’t do anything on Wednesdays because there was this show on TV that she absolutely had to see. I don’t have a television set in my apartment, so that usually meant going over to her roommates’ or, after a while, spending time alone in my room working on my theories.
I don’t usually like to go out, on the account that I don’t particularly like crowds. Joanne, on the other hand, liked ballets and operas and those kind of things. When I asked her what she saw in them she would tell me that they were cultural, and stuff. I’m not sure she really knew anything about those things, it was more like it was the thing to do with her friends. I went where she did and had a pretty good time, at least I think I did. It’s so hard to tell now.
I don’t see Joanne very much anymore. Since she moved to New York she and I don’t talk very much. Either she is too busy or I am, she says. We’re still friends mind you, I mean, I don’t think she hates me or anything, we just don’t have time I guess. I know I don’t hate her. On the contrary, I still love her very much, only sometimes, I guess, love isn’t enough.
Coffee Shops and Scrambled Eggs
I come here a lot, it’s comfortable in here. A pretty wide range of people come in for breakfast and to sit around and hang out. I’ve never understood why they call it a coffee shop though, almost all coffee shops I’ve been to serve lousy coffee. I mean, they really can’t compete with those gourmet places, those new cafes that only specialize in coffee. Here, they make really good hash browns and scrambled eggs. I guess they could call it a breakfast shop, but it just wouldn’t have the same ring, you know?
I wander around a lot at night these days. I wander wondering what Joanne is doing, how she is doing. I wander around thinking so much that I don’t know what to do anymore. Maybe it’s true that we weren’t right for each other, I still think we were. I don’t know what could have happened, it doesn’t make much sense to me.
Sometimes I wander all night and never go home until early in the morning. I might end up by the river, or way over in the park, but most nights I end up here at the coffee shop. I come in and get some breakfast, hash browns, scrambled eggs and coffee usually, when I am done, I pay my three dollars and twenty cents for my slice of the morning and then sit back and admire the people. Joanne and I used to come here on weekends, she’d complain that it was too greasy and everything, but it was our place. I wonder a lot about Joanne. There is a lot I don’t understand. When I sit in the coffee shop nursing my cold cup of coffee though, I can’t seem to get the image of her face out of my mind. I miss her. I can’t seem to forget her touch, her laugh, even her angers. I sit back and think about a lot of things, about her and her radiance. Oh yeah, and I never, ever, forget those dull frumpy shoes.