We're All Damaged

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Rules

I put my daughter to bed tonight. I’ve gotten pretty good at this over the last six months. For about 60 seconds she protested, fists clenched, convinced that something awesome was going on downstairs that she simply couldn’t miss. But then she turned over onto her side and passed out into a 13-pound heap of hopeless exhaustion. To the parent of a young child, this constitutes a small victory—the equivalent of winning a moderately complex argument over a narrow-minded relative at Thanksgiving.

When I returned to the kitchen, I found my wife standing at the counter. She was busy using our blender to grind peas into ectoplasm. She was preparing future meals for the baby. Apparently green slime is good for their developing brains.

It’s stuffy in our house at the moment, but it’s too early in the season for the air conditioner, so I opened the fridge to grab a cold soda. Sadly, there were none. My Diet Dr. Peppers were gone, and so, too, were her Diet Pepsis.

“Shit,” I said. The baby was asleep, so casual swearing was permitted again.

My wife knew exactly what I was talking about. She’d made the same discovery a few minutes ago. There was a time when we used to react like this only when all of the alcohol was gone. Those were simpler times.

“So,” she said. “Since I’m doing this, maybe you could walk down to CVS and get some sodas.”

She’s a smart girl, my wife, and I had to tip my cap at the “since I’m doing this.” I’m not sure what I would have done with the next 30 minutes, but I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t have been as socially significant as blending organic vegetables for our first born. “I’ll be right back,” I said.

The bars begin about a block from our house, and there were 20-somethings everywhere. Some of them were in intramural sports uniforms. Others looked like they were trapped in one of those happy hours that just keeps going and going. The “Humpty Dance” was coming from a bar called Mothers on Charles St. Some dude was trying to parallel park a yellow Humvee.

There was a girl in front of me walking alone in a pair of loud flip-flops. We were the only two people for about a fifty-yard stretch of pavement, and so I cleared my throat and tried to step a little heavier than necessary. Baltimore can be a rough city, and so whenever I’m approaching a girl from behind on the street, I like to let her know that I’m there and, hopefully, that I’m not about to hit her over the head with a tire iron and steal her iPod. She didn’t seem to notice me, though.

When I was maybe ten feet behind her, she stopped suddenly. With a grace that only females can manage, she removed her loud flip flops, shoved them into her purse and stepped into a pair of absurdly high, zebra-print heels. She’d been short a second ago, and now we were nearly the same height. She took a few steps and groaned, limping a little before catching her stride. Her shoes sounded like bricks on the sidewalk.

As I went to pass her, she turned my way. I was looking at her shoes, of course; they were a striking addition to an otherwise sensible pair of jeans and a black shirt. I expected her to be young, just another kid right out of college meeting some friends for drinks. But she wasn’t. She wore a lot of makeup, and she was pretty, but she was about my age, and, like me, she looked kind of tired.

I never know exactly how to handle eye contact with strangers, particularly female strangers, and so I just smiled stupidly.

“They hurt,” she said, sighing and smiling at the same time. “But, I don’t make the rules.” And then she turned right, and I kept going straight, walking toward my sodas.


  1. Ah... the sad truth of high heels- slow motion foot binding. We get freaked out when the Cinese do it to their ladies but we're still to blame- have you seen a granny's feet??!! URGH!!

    Good for you for doing the old, 'cough cough, goosestep goosestep' tho to let her know you were there.


  2. I don't subscribe to this school of thought as I like my heels comfortable and I won't usually wear them just for looks.....but MAN that picture of those shoes is cool!
    And I just like the way this story unfolds if that means anything to you!

  3. Dude, you need to write more often because you're damn good at it.