High Heels, With a Touch of Prufrock
I wrote this short story during the summer of 1992. It helped me flesh out a couple of characters in my first novel, The Escape of Bobby Ray Hammer, which I was writing at the time. I wrote it one Saturday evening, and the next afternoon, I read it to a rather large writing class. Our instructor loved it, and the class, mostly women, gave it a loud round of applause, something unheard of. More
Brenda is sitting up in bed leaning against the headboard with the white sheet and pink quilt pulled to her neck. She's naked and has her right hand down between her legs and her left hand on her right nipple squeezing hard. She's also thinking hard about Norman Todd, so hard in fact sweat is breaking out on her forehead and in her armpits. Spit is filling her mouth so fast she has to keep swallowing to keep it from running down her chin. She's thinking of the future, on a fantasy date with Norman, and he's got her where she wants to be most, pinned on her back in the seat of his brand new '57 T-Bird. She's also thinking of the past, about losing her virginity two months ago with Thomas Powers in the grassy foothills just outside of town (wondering why it happened with him, he's such a jerk), and the steamy date she had with Melvin Swensen last night. She can't believe how delicious he was. Her problem is, she can hear her mother's high heels clicking rapidly on the hardwood floor down the hall toward her bedroom. Brenda hopes she can come before her mother does. And, she's wondering why her mother is wearing high heals.
The reason Brenda's mother has hurried down the hall and is now turning the doorknob to Brenda's bedroom (Brenda is at this very second in the throes of ecstasy) has a lot to do with the reason she's wearing high heels. Her name is Ramona, and today she is forty. Just yesterday she was thinking that when she was born, her grandmother was forty, and she had always thought her grandmother was very old. Now Ramona is the same age her grandmother was then. That's bugging the shit out of her, even though she's not a grandmother, maybe in part because she is not a grandmother; maybe she could accept her age if she was a grandmother; but the fact is, she's not. She exists in this woman's no-woman's-land; she still feels young and vital, and she has never crossed over into that state of mind, that state of mental existence, that state of being old and knowing it, as she expected she would. She specifically does not mean a state of acceptance; no that is not what she means at all. When you are old, she thinks, it should be like you were always old. You shouldn't have to accept it. You're just that — old. Enough said. It is on you just like skin. You don't even have to think about it. Someone asking about your age should be like asking about your skin.
"Do you have skin?"
"Yes, I have skin, of course I have skin," you would reply. Just like that. No question about it.
"Are you old?"
"Of course I'm old. I'm forty. I've always been old. What a silly question." But it just isn't that way. That isn't the way she feels at all.
So Ramona at her advanced age, and yet still feeling very young, put on her high heels this morning just after breakfast, after she fixed a breakfast of ham, eggs and toast...