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Marian took her heel. Story #2

I once knew a girl named Marian; she’s not a girl anymore, though.

I remember the first time I saw her with her brown hair, frizzy in the summer heat. She was short then, but we all were. I was walking my German shepherd, Casper, down the street when I saw her. I stopped in silent awe as Casper stopped to sniff the ground. Her friends stood behind her as she strutted down the sidewalk, walking on her tiptoes so it would seem like she was wearing stilettos. The dried out lawn and boulevard on either side of her seemed to accentuate her beauty. The freckles on her cheeks looked like glitter and she puckered her lips to kiss the invisible audience waiting for her at the end of the pretend runway. Her friends squirmed and giggled when she turned, and that’s when she saw me. Casper had long since finished his sniffing business and had taken a seat at my side, panting thoughtlessly. As if she knew she was already holding the strings to my heart, she paused, threw her hip to the side and blew me a kiss, and then continued down the runway, never looking my direction again.

I thought I could stand to wait a few more minutes, but Casper had his own plans. A bunny had emerged from beneath some hostas, and we were off, but Marian was not gone.

Her friends thought she was going to grow up to be one of the best models, and wear expensive dresses, and date rich men. I thought so too. I didn’t stand a chance. But Marian wasn’t sure. She knew that when her friends left, she would go back inside and have to take the empty beer-bottle out of her father’s hand and put it in the recycling. She knew that when her mom got home there would be yelling about how her father didn’t take care of her. But Marian thought he did okay, she could take care of herself anyway. And he was better drunk and passed out than drunk and awake.

I didn’t know that Marian. I knew the Marian that was standing out on the sidewalk, giving her friends instructions on how to be a supermodel.

And while I had fallen for her, I hadn’t fallen far enough. I remember how I would walk down her street day after day, whenever I walked Casper. Sometimes she wouldn’t be there, sometimes she was alone drawing pictures in chalk on the sidewalk, and sometimes she was with her friends. Before I knew it, she really was gone; disappearing into a world I assumed she knew far more about than I did.

And soon enough, she didn’t have to stand on her tiptoes; the empty space was filled with shoes of all colors and prices. Her strength and determination turned into weakness and vulnerability. She felt like she was in over her head. At least, that’s what she told me the other day. Marian, the girl who I had admired for some reason I still don’t understand, became a woman. We drank iced tea, as buses and cars zoomed by in front of us. We choked on the stale fumes and savored them. The fumes had been in our blood since we were children; like naïveté, it had not left us.

She had read an article about snakes that kill by strangling their prey, and so she called men bull snakes; wrapping around her with their soft complimentary words, their rough manly hands. They seemed so exotic and fascinating at first, until they began to squeeze.

She liked confiding in me on days like that, when the air felt more like a liquid, clothes seemed to melt off the body. Sometimes I think she saw it as a contest, to see who can survive the longest, but she knows I’ll stay. She told me once that she loved them, each of those bull snakes, “with a quiet arrogance,” she said, proud of herself, proud of her ability to walk while the other girls couldn’t. She said she had wanted this life, and her never thinking she could have it, made her like having it even more. But that was to be our secret. Though I knew it was the wrong secret to keep. For, it was this secret that tortured her, as the bull snakes slid over her shoulders and around her chest. She remembered what she had learned as a child. The bull snake may kill by strangling its prey, but each time they let her live, because they knew without knowing, that she was strangling herself.

And so, one day, Marian sat down after feeling a strange pain in her foot. She knew what it was. She knew she had finished her career. In fact, she didn’t even really want to look, but she felt like it was important. And so she sat down on the floor of her bathroom, and crossed her legs, bringing her left foot into her hands. She clutched her heel, feeling the soft skin, the blue veins underneath. She moved her fingers up and felt her cold Achilles tendon. She pointed her toes and pulled them back, intrigued by the one part of herself she had never considered. She thought back to that day in the sun, walking down the hot cement with her heels raised to the air, floating in silent understanding. She thought about those two other girls and how they adored her. She had never adored anyone; she had only ever tolerated the people that surrounded her.

The bull snake she was living with came in the room and saw her on the floor. She began to trace the cold, sandy valleys of grout between the tiles, she couldn’t hear what he was saying anymore; she had stopped pretending.

We sat in silence for a long time, a sparrow bounced at our feet, looking up expectantly. She set her cup down on the small metal table and said goodbye.

“To who?” I asked.

She smiled, stood up and left.

Posted in Stories by Preston on July 31st, 2010

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