At five-thirty in the afternoon yesterday, I left my house in a mad rush and sped down the road in an attempt to beat the clock. A week ago, I had dropped off three pairs of shoes at our local cobbler’s place and it was time to pick them up. But if I missed picking them up yesterday, I’d have to wait another week to get them – Having cornered the market on shoe repair in our area, the German man who oh-so-carefully replaces the torn up soles and broken spikes of my heels and boots needs only to open three days a week. My window of reaching him his very narrow, less than an hour on Thursdays and Fridays. Additionally, he is roughly a half hour from my house. He closes at six. Hence my speeding.
I turned up my music and pressed the pedal to the floor, navigating the all too familiar curves and twists of my neighborhood’s roads with practiced ease and grace. The turns, however, are sharp and steep, as it seems that each turn occurs when going up or down a handsome hill. One hand on my gear shift, one hand on the wheel, I down-shifted my way up hills to get power, coasting and braking on the way back down.
I reached the most notorious hill in my development, one that is particularly steep, its seemingly ninety degree angle difficult to navigate as you descend. The yellow-lined road cradles a rocky cliff of sorts, the pavement complimenting the natural landscape of the Poconos. In the passenger seat going down the hill, I always watch as Northeastern Pennsylvania rocks come dangerously close to the window. But it is a turn I have mastered in all kinds of weather, both up and down; one that, upon reaching it, I instinctually downshift, whether I’m about to climb it or descend it.
But I was going faster than I normally would, and I hugged my side of the road tightly, so as to avoid the cars coming up the hill in the opposite direction. And that’s when I heard the thud, felt the jarring in my car; I gripped the wheel and steered into the shimmying my wheels were doing. “Great,” I thought. “Just great.”
I checked my side view mirror, and it was still there, but I was certain that I’d clipped the jutting rocks with my bumper. Too lazy and helpless to stop (because, what would it do besides make me sadder?), I pictured my poor car, the majestic Lady Gwenivere, her bumper all mashed and bent, perhaps the shattered plastic of my parking lights clinging to the wires that were sure to be dangling from her mutilated front.
“Just great,” I said again, to no one in particular. “This is just what I need.”
Undaunted, I continued to speed to the shoe shop, making a mental note of the things I may as well get done while Gwen’s in the shop: Oil change, brakes, tune up, maybe even the front shocks while I’m at it. I started doing the math in my head, how much of my bi-weekly paycheck I’ve been putting away, how much it totaled so far in my savings, how much I could afford to do without. That money was supposed to be waiting to be put toward a new car, but that would just have to wait, I reasoned. Gwen’s not going anywhere, and we can’t have her looking all mangled.
I pulled into the parking lot just minutes before the six o’clock deadline. I rushed in, my claim ticket already in my hand, eager to pick up my shoes. The Cobbler went over what he’d done for my precious footwear, how he’d resurrected a pair I thought was a gonner, how he saved another from almost certain death. “You’re an artist,” I gushed, handing over the remaining 20 of my forty dollar balance. “Thank you so much.”
“Now you can get back to dancing,” he said, smiling.
“You’ve got that right,” I said with a giggle. “How did you know those are my dancin’ shoes? That’s how I busted that pair! Dancing!” I pointed to my knee-high, pointy-toed pleather boots, caressing the fresh repair of its four inch stiletto heel and the sewing he’d done on the back seam. Suddenly, it occurred to me that maybe he thought I was a stripper. “You know,” I corrected quickly, “like when I’m out with my friends, just dancing with the girls…” Uh, not much better. “…and guys. And whoever else goes out. You know, just dancing with friends…”
“Vat’s your favorite dance to do?” he asked, his accent reminding of my grandfather’s, and making me feel all the more guilty for even the possibility of even mistaken for a stripper.
I’ve never truly salsa-danced in my life. I mean, I’ve tried. Don’t get me wrong. And on certain occasions, when I’m dancing with a particularly good partner or when I’ve had enough drinks, I can even convince myself that I’m a pro at it. Who needs lessons and expertise when you have vodka?
“Okay, well, thank you so much for fixing my shoes,” I said, backing out of the ancient store. “Have a great weekend.”
“You too!” I heard him call as I ran out of the store and across the parking lot.
A row of diagonally-parked cars confronted me, and I walked passed their bumpers on the way to my own, shaking my head and wondering if the shoe guy really thinks that tall brunette who comes in about once every two months with the boots and the high pointy heels and the belly-baring shirts really is a stripper. I shook my head. It doesn’t matter, I said to myself. Take it as a compliment. I’ve had people, in clubs, ask me if I’m a dancer before. And from the tone in their voice, and the way they eye-balled my cleavage, I knew they didn’t mean a ballerina. I was flattered. Clearly, I can move it. But something about the shoe guy’s hunched-over little body, his silver rimmed glasses, his sweet brown eyes, his delicate baby-duck fluff of gray hair made me wish I could just run back there and tell him “I just wanted to clarify: I’m not a stripper; I'm an office manager. Have a good weekend.”
And just as I was fantasizing about clearing up what may not even be an issue, I saw it: The scratched paint along the passenger side of the bumper; primer gray showing through champagne paint in deep wounds. Oh God, I thought, I really did bruise my baby. I hunkered down, fingering the gash, feeling the deep ridges. I moaned, my eyebrows knitted with worry.
“Excuse me,” said an older lady, trying to get by with her cart.
“Oh. Yeah. Sure. Sorry,” I muttered, standing up straight and backing up to let her pass.
Only then did I notice that nothing was hanging from the rear-view mirror inside. And I don’t have rain guards on my windows. And why aren’t there any running boards on this ca–
Oh. My. God.
It wasn’t my car. My car, two spaces away, was fine.
I actually, for the first time in my life, mistook someone else’s 4Runner for my own.
And I don’t know if that means I need a drink, or if I need to lay off the sauce for a little while.