Should Have Worn Boots

by

08/07/2005

Detroit, MI

Neighborhood: Uncategorized

I pull on my brand new Calvin Klein white cashmere coat, wrap a cozy hand-knitted scarf around my neck, and then pull the matching mittens over my hands. I glance outside into the snowy night and curse because my hair will frizz in the snow. I scurry out the door of my apartment building and gasp when the frigid blast hits my face. My car is all the way at the end of the sidewalk. Making a quick beeline for the street, I think, No lollygagging in this weather. My hair is going to be a freaking mess by the time I get there. I hop across the snowy lawn to my car, quickly realizing that I should have swapped my black high heels for my fuzzy brown snow boots, but hey they didn’t go with my black Coach purse.

I jump into my car, cursing myself for not getting that remote starter installed sooner, making a mental note to call the auto store tomorrow. I glance at my radio and see that it’s already 6:45. I’m never going to make it to downtown Detroit by 7:30 in this weather. My cell phone rings as my best friend calls to see what I’m doing tonight. I bitch that I have to work on a Saturday night. We make plans to get dinner tomorrow night. I race my way down I-75 trying to make it to the gallery on time. 15 minutes into my ride I kick myself for bundling up so much because now I am too hot. I hate this state, I hate this state, I hate this state, I shout out loud to my empty car. I really need to look into moving somewhere warm.

I make it to Detroit in with barely enough time to find a parking space and dash into the gallery. I circle the block for a place to put my car like a shark looking for a kill. On my second trip around the block I notice the homeless man slumped against the side of the building. I make note to not go that way but quickly see that’s the only place where a parking spot is to be found. No biggie, I think to myself, I’ll just walk really fast, hold onto my purse tight and won’t make eye contact.

I grab my briefcase and some other things I need for the event and hurry towards the building, silently praying the homeless guy won’t talk to me. Don’t make eye contact, I remind myself. Just as I’m about to make it past him, my high heels lose traction on a patch of ice. I land hard on my backside and stars explode in front of me. I look around me at all my papers getting soaked in the slush.

I hear a gruff voice say, “You should have worn boots.” My eyes rest on a pair of legs in dirty, battered old work pants and plastic grocery store bags covering the shoes, rubber bands holding them in place. My heart begins to beat faster as I look up into the face of the homeless guy I just passed by. He’s going to kill me and take my purse, I frantically think. If I scream, someone at the party is bound to hear me. I take a deep breath, bracing myself for the loudest scream in my life, when I realize he’s offering me his hand. I take tentative hold on his ice cold hand and he helps me up.

He bends down, gathering my soaking wet papers, and he says, “I think these might be ruined.”

Now that I’m on my feet again, I take a closer look at him. His old army flack jacket is torn and dirty, patched haphazardly against the wind. His scruffy long hair is pulled back into a knotted ponytail and a rough beard covers his face. It’s his eyes are what frighten me the most. They are blank. Not blank like stoned or high blank, no, this is something more. There is no more emotion left in them.

He hands my stuff back to me, and I say, “Uh, thanks for helping me.”

“Make sure you wear boots next time,” he says as he walks away.

I walk into the warm light of the gallery, smooth down my frizzy hair and seek out some club soda to clean off my coat. A waiter appears to take my coat and purse as I’m led into the rest of the party. I can’t shake what happened a few minutes ago. I’m disturbed by that hollow look. I know that I will never forget that look. I guess it’s true what they say about eyes being the window to the soul. It is clear to me that he has lost his spirit somewhere along the way.

I feel my heart sagging at the thought of the man outside in the cold and I plan to bring him a plate of food. Before I can gather a plate, I’m pulled into a conversation with a sponsor and handed a glass of champagne. I’ll get that plate later, I think to myself.

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