By Chris Miskiewicz
I smell her perfume before I see her.
It’s a mix of Jasmine and chemical compounds put together in a laboratory, that was tested on monkeys to see if their skin would bubble or burn, then passed through ten months of focus groups who debated the name, font, bottle shape, and best ad campaign that would get their brand into the public consciousness through magazine and billboard ads that depict a beautiful young girl, who the majority of their consumers look nothing like, doing sweeping motions with her hair while being naturally beautiful. Possibly even more beautiful because of the perfume, even though she never used the product before the day of the shoot, and will probably never use it again after.
She approaches, awkwardly balanced on precariously thin heels that make booming tac tac sound with each step.
I’ll never understand the mechanics of high-heels or the fascination that some women have in their attempt to walk in them over the ever-changing sidewalk terrain of Manhattan. They are pedestal shoes, not made for function, but instead that elusive thing called beauty. And yes, I might be the only man alive who doesn’t dig a lady in high heels, but instead a girl who can get through anything that’s thrown at her while rocking a pair of blue jeans with sensible footwear. I don’t understand why a lady needs to announce that she’s coming by the sound of her footsteps.
I blame a character named Carrie Bradshaw from the Sex in the City TV show for corrupting the minds and style of a generation of young girls, although I probably blame the writer more. That parody turned normal American girls into caricatures of women in tiny heels carrying pillowcase sized thousand dollar knock-off handbags, while wearing animal patterned blouses and oversized sunglasses that could cover two faces. Add in three or four shopping bags, a coffee cup, and an Iphone, all balanced on one arm and you’ve got the look. A look that I’ve taken to calling “hanger arm,” because nothing says beautiful urban woman who can handle any situation more than having one of your arms extended while holding all of your crap on it like a walking closet.
One wonders what evolution will do to the hanger arm? Perhaps it will grow and detach into a Sherpa. Who can say?
She is all of these things and more as she gallops in her beautiful horse like manner towards me, unaware of her surroundings outside of her iPhone as she desperately texts to some lucky person out there.
I stare at her bags, glasses, animal blouse, listen to the tac tac steps, breathing the odor of her perfume which fills the sidewalk with sickness as it mixes with the scent of the hotdog vendors cart. I see her and I feel her beauty, her Midwestern televised charm. She is everything that television created for her generation. In a way, she’s perfect, all except for the simple fact that she’s oblivious to everything outside of the phone.
She doesn’t see the sunlight. And she doesn’t hear sounds. She can’t feel the breeze. She doesn’t see the kid and his uncle who are both laughing over a fallen ice cream cone. She doesn’t see when the uncle gives the kid his cone while remembering a hundred other times. She misses the white haired Jewish lady giving directions to the Chinese tourists while trying to bridge the language barrier by talking louder to them. Or the bike messenger who narrowly misses her as she crosses the intersection. The two undercover cops on the corner are blurs, and the beggar won’t even be mentioned. And of course, me, the guy she’s about to walk into, I’m not there either.
So I let it happen. Yes, I could have moved, but I didn’t.
I never do when they’re about to walk into me. But I always find it so very strange that in a city of eleven million certain women walk the streets bumping into everyone, staring at their phone, never looking three feet in front of them at the six foot dude they’re about to crash into. I suppose that I’m supposed to move for her. Or maybe pretending to be alone is some sort of a natural defense. I just don’t know.
Instead, she crashes into me and almost drops her phone, practically falling on her right side from the weight of the shopping bags. Then she quickly glances up snarling, her store bought beauty replaced by an expression that resembles Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Baby pink lipstick covered lips pull back into a sharp-toothed snarl.
“Watch where you’re going!” she shrieks in such a high-pitched little girl voice that I image several dozen designer dogs perking up their ears in the buildings above us.
“Would you see me if my eyes were screens?” I ask her.
“Go fuck yourself you fucking asshole,” she howls while tripping over a sidewalk crack and squawking, “Who do you think you are??” as a parting question.
I turn back and look into her giant crooked sunglasses that are falling off of her face and give her my biggest shit eater grin.
“A New Yorker.”