Mr. Greene and his Immaculate Shoes
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the painting. The only reason I even remember the name of it is because of the artist, Dorothea Koch. Doubtless some waifish first year NYU student, Dorothea had scrawled the title next to her signature in the bottom left corner of the canvas. Amusingly, the red pigment she chose to scribble the title with ran right on to Mr. Greene’s left shoe. Perhaps the irony was intentional. I prefer to think it was not.
I just realized, in the three years I was with her, I don’t know where she got that painting. I always assumed it was something she got from an ex-girlfriend at college, or maybe bought for her first apartment. The piece certainly didn’t belong in her bedroom. The frame was gilded and poorly tacked, probably salvaged from something someone threw away on the street. It was too huge for the wall space she had available, hanging over the bed and dwarfing the headboard. I was the only guy Amelia ever went with. She picked me up off the street too. Maybe the picture came with the frame.
Amelia was the kind of woman who could never just get up and go somewhere. There were countless layers of makeup application, hair tweaking, and accessory picking. Running out to the grocery store took more preparation than the walk did. I guess I never noticed it until two weeks after we split, and I rolled out of bed to go buy a cup of coffee – something I hadn’t done in years. I think part of the reason was that she was uncomfortable in her own skin. Lord knows I wasn’t uncomfortable around her in her skin. In those three years I don’t think we spent a night apart or fully clothed.
Amelia never wanted to do anything alone, or want me to do anything alone. Her insecurity was contagious. Co-dependency bloomed in me like malaria, to the point I would get feverish if I had to work some overtime. Sometimes, I’m amazed it didn’t kill me. I was always making jokes about her going back to women, and she was always making jokes about me leaving her. Neither of us ever joked about the twenty years in age between us. We didn’t need to. It was apparent every time we lay next to each other; body heat and slick, taut and saggy. I often wish I had met her when she was younger, before she decided she fancied women.
Mostly I remember the painting because of it’s content. Who the hell paints the back of someone’s ankles and shoes? No walking, no action, no conflict. Five feet of canvas depicting tranquil shiny heels peeking out from under two pinstripe pant legs against a sea of sidewalk. Maybe that is the trick of the painting. You see the pant leg and assume male, and see the mannish heel jammed into thin Italian leather pumps and are supposed to laugh. I never found it funny. That painting used to be my only solace whenever she wanted it from behind. I would stare at that painting and try to stay hard, ignoring what was purring and gyrating below me between my legs. I would stare at the furious brushstrokes that added the luster to those sensuous heels, and I’d be able to hold on for another two minutes.
I met Amelia the same way I left her; so drunk I could barely stand on my own. That first night she picked me up at Cutty’s, I didn’t even remember her name. We clearly fucked that night, though I don’t remember any of it. When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was, who Amelia was, or where my clothes were. It was just me, her bed, and good old Mr. Greene. It took her hours to wake up, and by that time my hangover had dissolved into a dull throb and ravenous hunger. She introduced herself when she finally woke up, knowing, somehow, that I wouldn’t remember. Maybe I never knew. Nobody knows but her.
Amelia’s bedroom was too small for furniture other than her bed. Her dresser was in the closet in the hallway. The lightswitch was by the door, and there were heavy blinds. Even if I did remember a book, I could never read it, because turning on the light was the same as if I had to get up. She had the annoying habit of sleeping on the side not against the wall, so I would have to climb over her if I wanted to take a piss or go get a drink. I would always wake her in the process, and we would have a fight, which would generally end up with us fucking again. I never thought to just open the blinds.
I spent a lot of time staring at that painting. Amelia could sleep away a Saturday like someone who had put in an eighty hour work week. Amelia didn’t work, she lived off her inheritance. I shouldn’t be too judgmental, for a while, so did I. That ended when I found the box of dental dams. She swore they were old, but the receipt was from the week before. We never used protection. Maybe that is why it stung for months afterwards. It still stings.
Amelia did go back to women after I left her. I’ve been watching her for months, trying to figure out which of the freshman she would pick out, and how she would seduce them professionally, then discard them like twists of Kleenex. She doesn’t know what is coming, and, I imagine, she won’t until it is too late. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that damn painting, and what it might mean. She used to tell me all the time, “Mark, you better give me what I need, or I’m gonna go look elsewhere.” I tried it as Mark, and she went elsewhere anyway.
The leather pumps bite my heels like puppy teeth. Not enough to break the skin, but enough to know they are there. By the end of the night, my ankles will probably be gashes – raw and red, like that puppy spent all night gnawing. The price will be worth it if I can talk to her, introduce myself again, maybe get her name. I know what she likes, and I know enough that I should be able to seduce her a little back.
My name will be Marci. Marci Greene.