Oh yeah? I thought. You negative pompous man, you. Okay, he was right about one thing. Height was not one of my endowments. Like all of my family, I was born of short and stocky stature. Who cared? I wouldn’t let his quick judgment decide for me. You are wrong, Gilles.
A week later, with his words still bugging me, I decided to show him. Well, not him personally, but myself. I was so excited because I had a job interview and needed the work; I was also extremely nervous. With money in hand, I went to the Bay. It was sixty-five minutes before my appointment. I wore a pair of light-coloured dress pants and a crisp white blouse. With only one pair of shoes to my name, which were runners, I had to get something fancier.
“May I help you?” a young sales woman asked, dropping the store’s flyer on the checkout counter.
“I’ll be okay, thanks,” I said. My eyes scanned the four rows of footwear. They made them in blue? Green. Black. That was it. Black would go with anything. Admiring the shoe’s sleek design, I inhaled the patent-leather. They were sexy.
There was no need to try them on; they were size eight-and-a-half, exactly what I wore. With a modest three-inch heel, they were just perfect to boost my confidence to the second-story windows of any building. I could just see it: I was vamping up the catwalk, towering over other women who cursed me. The crowd gasped and exhaled gushes of appreciation. My new inner strength had made me a star.
A half-hour later, I ran across the busy street and rushed into the Bentall Centre. I was so excited. I hopped the short up-escalator ride, immediately to my right, and went directly to the women’s room. I stood in the doorway, clinging to my bag, and noticed a good-looking man sitting in the window at Grab-A-Brew, a tiny coffee bar situated directly opposite me. The aroma of Java was so alluring, I promised myself a steaming hot cup in just a few minutes.
I was so glad nobody else was inside. I locked myself in the large stall and removed my light jacket. Putting toe-to-heal, I shed my New Balance runners and grabbed my huge bag. I took off my pants and gently hung them over the coat hook, then ripped open the pack of pantyhose. Off went the socks too. I donned the sheer hose and remembered how many times I cursed those things. However, this could be no half-assed presentation: I had to look impressive from head to toe.
Time check. Thirty minutes.
I put my pants back on and then used the toilet seat as a chair. I lifted the shoebox lid and peered in through the crack. Magically, I imagined a Disney movie, where the brilliant white light set off by the shiny new heels, blinded me for a few seconds. I felt so dazed and vacant at that moment that I was sure, to any onlooker, I reflected something akin to a post-sex double ‘B’–blissful and blank–even though my movie was only PG.
Wow! I was going to look good. But wait. As I bent down to slip on the second shoe, my pantyhose ran to the coffee shop way ahead of me. Lovely. Thank God I was wearing pants.
After stuffing my runners in my bag, I walked around. My feet kept sliding down the bunny-hill slope, which rammed my toes tightly into the point of the shoe. I did not worry though because I had no choice but to wear them; it was either that or be a no-show. I checked my hair in the mirror, took a deep breath, and stepped outside.
This time, a well-dressed woman sat in the window sipping from a red mug. She looked up from reading the Courier and surveyed me. I averted my eyes and stood frozen like a popsicle for what seemed an eternity. Was she laughing at me? I knew it. She thought I looked ridiculous. I backed up fast and returned to the washroom.
In the mirror, I saw the embarrassed flush of my cheeks and the sweat on my face. This was a full-on panic attack. I paced the length of the room repeatedly, all the while studying my feet. I had an idea!
I locked myself in a stall again and sat down. The toilet paper dispenser squealed as I yanked off reams of the stuff. I squished these into a ball and stuffed them deep into each shoe. I strolled around again and was aware that my feet ached. The pumps were way too big!
What was I going to do? I grabbed more paper and stuffed it behind my heels. This was so awkward. My toes were killing me. Suddenly, I remembered why I couldn’t skate: I had weak ankles!
I checked the paper and realized that–with the length of my pants–people might see the stuffing. I could not use any paper at my heels. I ripped that out and crammed every bit of it in the front.
Time check. Fifteen minutes.
I had to go. I sucked in one deep breath and walked outside. I assumed an attitude as I marched proudly passed Grab-A-Brew. I felt like a 95-year old woman on roller skates. I clung to the escalator for dear life. Please, I thought, don’t let me catch a heel and fall. The last thing I needed was to draw more attention to myself. I hobbled and wobbled my way through the twenty paces to the elevator. With six to go, I barely corrected myself before twisting over on my right ankle. Crisis averted.
On the fourteenth floor, I checked in and searched the secretary’s face for any signs of mirth. After all, she did see me my wavering approach to her desk. Oh well. If a trace of a smile lingered at the corners of her mouth, I blocked it out. I plunked myself down and flipped through Time magazine. How typical. I had to pee but had no time.
“Miss Gibson?” said Gwen, the interviewer. “This way, please.”
I stood up and offered her a worried smile. She was the one from the coffee bar. Oh my God. Did she remember me? I was so rattled by then that she had to see what a wreck I was. Tentatively, I followed her, while my feet slid around as if on ice. My ankles were so unsteady, I strained every single ligament in an effort not to fall. How I wished I had on my thick winter socks. At the entrance to her elegant office, she met my glance.
“After you,” she said, ushering me ahead.
“No thank you,” I replied. “… after you.” I could not walk in front of her. My bladder was about to burst and my emotions hovered somewhere between tears and a compulsion to crack up in fits of laughter.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Go ahead.”
This would be awkward if the exchange continued. So, I summoned everything in me and relented. I tiptoed ahead of her, and practically crumpled my resume from the stress. Somewhere, a phone rang and I jumped, only to be dumbfounded a second later. As I passed her, I saw that she wore a nice suit, pantyhose, and sneakers.
How I wanted to kill Gilles at that moment for daring me to do it. As I scanned the horizon of Gwen’s inner sanctum, a chair beckoned to me and I collapsed in it. I felt like a ghostly version of my usual pale self. Wake up, I thought. The door closed behind us. Gwen walked around her desk and sat facing me. I re-channelled my grit and feigned calm. I even smoothed out my resume. Savouring that short reprieve, I laughed inside about my sexy high-heel adventure. My movie.
“Now, Miss Gibson,” Gwen began, “. . . what kind of job are you looking for?”
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