It was a black stiletto, lying on its side on the sidewalk. It was almost all the way to the curb where the taxis stopped outside of one of the most popular nightclubs on New York’s Upper East Side. Of course, there was only one shoe. There was always just one. How did people always manage to lose just one shoe? And yet, there it was—all by itself in the early morning light. Who did it belong to? Where was the other shoe? And what had it seen?
Her name was Rebecca. Well, that’s what she called herself these days. She’d been Becky most of her life, but that seemed like such a small town name. The fact that she’d grown up in a small Midwestern town only seemed to remind her of where she’d come from—and that wasn’t where she was headed.
She was Rebecca now; smart, beautiful, and confident. At least that’s how she presented herself. After all, that was who she wanted to be. She’d had enough of the limitations that small town life placed on her and it was time to move on. It was why she’d moved to New York in the first place.
It wasn’t that she hated the town she’d grown up in—far from it. It held a lot of fond memories for her. She always enjoyed seeing it when she returned. Occasionally she’d see old friends when she visited. But that comfortable and secure little town also held its share of disappointments—particularly when it came to love.
It's not that Becky had been a wallflower. She'd been pretty and popular in school. She never had to hang out at home when there had been dances or proms. And she was smart—after all, she'd been in all the advanced placement classes in high school. Of course, that had been a bit of a challenge. She'd always felt as if she was the "dumb" kid who had accidentally been put in the smart kids’ class. [G1] She may have been of above average intelligence, but she often felt like a phony sitting in those advanced placement classes, and it ate away at her.
But her perceived inadequacy in academic matters wasn’t the only thing that bothered her. When it came to love, she a little bit like a fraud as well. It wasn’t that she didn’t have a love life. She had a popular, great-looking boyfriend who treated her well and was a lot of fun— and she was heads-over-heels for him. But somehow she felt conflicted.
Even though the highly touted sexual revolution of the day had wound its way into the halls (and cloak rooms) of her high school, she was still very much a child of the 50s when it came to intimacy. Her Southern Baptist upbringing and her small town sense of morals had made it pretty clear that there were limits (however fuzzy those might be) to what she could and should expect out of a relationship. A girl had to have (so she repeatedly heard) limitations.
It was a feeling that many of her friends—both male and female—struggled with mightily—although it’s probably safe to say that some struggled more valiantly than others. Becky (much to her own chagrin) was one of the valiant ones.
For her, however, it wasn’t just some theoretical or philosophical conundrum that she faced. It was a flesh-and-blood issue she faced all the time. Her boyfriend wanted more from their relationship than she was comfortable yielding. It wasn't like she didn't think about taking their physical relationship further. But h[G2] er background and upbringing held her back. It was obviously frustrating to him, but it was something that played on her mind and emotions as well.
That was nothing new for young lovers, but it became an issue that slowly started to dominate their relationship. His longing for increased physical intimacy didn’t disappear when she gave him a demure smile. They seemed to talk about that aspect of their relationship more and more. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to acquiesce, and finally, that tension—coupled with their graduation from high school—caused them to split up. But that wasn’t the end of it.
She never really got over him. As time went by, she met other men. But she never forgot about him. There was always a sense of loss—of missed opportunity—when she thought about him. Naturally, she wondered if her reticence to yield to his (and, truth be told, her own) longings had taken her true love from her. At times she resented her small-town modesty and the restrictions she felt it had forced upon her.
It’s not like she sat around and pined away like some spinster in a Victorian novel. She was still young and vibrant. Things were happening in her life. A reawakened spirituality opened her eyes to new dimensions. College presented it’s own challenges, demands, and opportunities. And then the working world consumed much of her time and thoughts. Still, there was always the “what if?” question that haunted her. She still hadn’t found anybody that made her feel the way her high school boyfriend had made her feel—and she longed for that.
Then one day—it wasn’t really out of the blue, but it seemed like it—she made a big decision. Determined to find what she had denied herself, she made the decision to move to New York with the express intention of having an affair. No longer would she deny herself the kind of relationship for which she had longed.
In a way, she shocked herself. She’d always been a strong-willed person, but this was a big step. It was risky and not well thought out. It wasn’t the kind of thing she’d ever done before, but she was a young, intelligent, driven woman who could make her way in the world. And like the song said, if she could make it there, she could make it anywhere. But she wanted to take this gamble far away from her small town roots.
It wasn’t too long after arriving in New York that she met someone who she thought might be worth her attention. It didn’t happen right away, but things moved kind of fast in New York City. Naturally, he was good looking—but [G3] there were plenty of good-looking guys around. He was also engaging and charming (weren’t they all?), and he was obviously interested in her. He was confident and self-assured—maybe just a little too much for her taste, but she decided not to be hasty in her judgment.
She did notice that he seemed a little bit too preoccupied with himself. Numerous times she caught him checking himself out in every reflective surface they passed while walking down the street. It niggled at her a little bit, but then she thought to herself that she’d done the same thing on occasion. Still, it seemed a little odd when a guy did it.
There were a few more little things that set off something in the back of her mind. Every conversation they had somehow seemed to ultimately end up being about him. Even when they talked about her hopes, desires, and dreams, all of their conversations eventually ended up focused on his exploits, his accomplishments, and his plans. Again, she dismissed those thoughts. After all, he was an interesting and attractive guy with all kinds of potential. And on top of that, she felt that familiar forbidden tingle when she spent time with him.
Rebecca managed to push her concerns out of her mind. She reminded herself that she had set her mind on experiencing “grown-up” love and wasn’t going to let a few odd quirks get in the way.
Besides, Tom (her new boyfriend) was a great dancer—and she loved to dance. That was why she had purchased those the new black stiletto shoes she was wearing. She looked like a million bucks when she hit the dance floor. Those shoes may not have been made for dancing, but they sure as shooting would ensure that some guy would ask her to dance! Granted, they weren’t the most comfortable shoes to dance in, but who cared? She could soak her feet later. Rebecca decided that if Ginger Rogers could do everything Fred Astaire did backward and in heels—so could she, and she was going to show Tom that she was up to it.[G4]
Naturally, it helped that she had a dance partner as talented as Tom. He was graceful, dramatic, and he was good. To be honest, he was a better dancer than she was, and proud of his skill (and his reputation). He obviously savored it when others (particularly women) commented on his ability after watching him.
One night Tom and Rebecca hit the dance floor at the club on the Upper East Side that they frequented and began to dance. The music was great that night and Tom was feeling it. He pushe Rebecca to do more and more complicated moves—and she was pulling it off. Time after time she rose to the challenge (despite those damn stilettos). She knew she was getting in over her head, but all the couples around them were watching, slack-jawed as Tom and Rebecca tore the place up.
But then it happened in a flash. Tom spun her just a little too hard. If she’d been wearing more sensible shoes, she might have been able to catch herself, but in the stilettos, she didn't have a chance. She went down[G5] hard—flat on her butt like a ton of bricks. Although the music kept playing, everyone in the room stopped—and stared at her.
She looked up at Tom, but he just stared at her, too. It wasn’t a look of compassion or concern—it was a stare of contempt because she had embarrassed him and brought his reputation as a dancer into question. Without a word, he spun on his heel and walked out of the club. Rebecca was left on her own, shaken and burning with humility, to struggle to her feet and hobble to the door where she caught a cab for home—alone.
You might think that would have been the end of things between the two of them, but Rebecca still hadn’t realized her dream of experiencing love as a grown-up. [G6] She was hurt and humiliated, and angry as hell, but she really wasn’t sure she had the energy to start all over again. Did she really want to begin the whole dating process again?
She gave herself a bit of time to nurse her wounds and repair her damaged pride. Then she thought to herself that surely she could make this work. Surely Tom had just gone through a “rough phase” that wasn’t indicative of who he really was. And she really, really didn’t want to have to start all over. So when he called her a few days later and semi-apologized (without actually admitting to being a jerk), she decided to give him another chance.
Tom actually behaved himself. He was more attentive. He brought her flowers. He even asked her where she wanted to go for dinner instead of simply telling her where they were going. Rebecca was impressed. That went on for a couple of weeks and Rebecca began feeling as if she’d made the right decision. Things were going to work out all right after all.
They even worked on a few dance moves privately in her apartment. Her confidence grew and she thought she was ready to go back to the club. That night, Rebecca was dressed to the nines. And while those black stilettos were still as uncomfortable as hell, she looked great wearing them.
Tom looked great when he picked her up, too. But there was a bit of a change in his demeanor. He didn’t seem so focused on her anymore. It was almost as if the old Tom had resurfaced. He wasn’t exactly nervous (he was too self-assured for that), but it almost seemed like he was driven. Their conversation was a bit stilted. It was almost as if Tom couldn’t wait to get back on the dance floor to prove that he was still the king of the club. Rebecca blew it off as him just feeling rusty and wanting to burn off some energy.
When they hit the club, Tom had a few more drinks than he normally did. He was anxious to get out on the floor and strut his stuff. But he wanted to wait until the whole crowd was there. Finally, he grabbed Rebecca by the arm and ushered her out on the dance floor.
Once again, they had the attention of everybody in the club. The slack-jawed stares were abundant. Some of the dancers simply stopped and watched Tom and Rebecca. Some even applauded. They sailed through the moves they'd been trying when Rebecca had spun out of control—and she felt a flush of pride. Then they began to do some of the moves they'd worked on privately. The crowd was delighted.[G7]
Rebecca, however, began to fell a bit odd. She loved to dance, but this wasn’t just dancing; it was a performance. She began to feel that she wasn’t so much Tom’s partner as his prop. And the warm glow she’d felt began to turn cold at the base of her spine.
By the time the DJ had finished the set, Tom and Rebecca were the only ones dancing. Everybody else was just watching in wonder. When they finally finished, Tom was glowing. People clapped and whistled and bought them drinks. Tom was triumphant.
He also had a strange, almost manic look in his eye. He grabbed Rebecca by the wrist (just a little too hard) and throatily whispered, “Let’s get out of here for a while.” He led her across the dance floor and out into a hallway. He headed across the hall to a doorway, where he stood and flourished a key. "The bartender gave it to me because I'm such a good customer—and because he knows some people come here just to watch me dance!"[G8] [G9] [G10] [G11] [G12] [G13]
He opened the door and led Rebecca inside. It was some sort of a storage room—dusty, stale, and dark. He closed the door behind them, pulled Rebecca to him, and told her, “Now, baby, we’re gonna celebrate!”
He tried to kiss her—a little too eagerly and forcefully. Rebecca recoiled a bit. It hit her with undeniable clarity how little she actually meant to Tom. She was arm candy; a dance partner, and someone he had used to make himself look better. She was sickened and horrified.
Her resistance, unfortunately, only seemed to spur Tom on. Keeping one hand around her waist, he began groping with the other hand—all the while, telling her how great this was going to be. At the same time, Rebecca’s mind was working overtime. While some animal part of her brain was fending off an attack on her person, another part of her brain was screaming at her, “This is NOT what you wanted! How could you have been such a fool?”
Her attempts to dissuade the amorous Tom were completely wasted. He continued to grope and attempt to kiss her—and he was obviously too strong for her to resist much longer. She opted for a change in strategy.
“Tom!” she whispered huskily, “Let’s make this easier, shall we? Let me slip this off, first before you tear it to shreds!” Those words were like a magic incantation to Tom. Never for a moment thinking that a woman could resist his charms, we dropped his hands to his side and stood there with his hands at his side, legs akimbo, waiting for Rebecca to unbutton her blouse.
Taking note of his wide stance, Rebecca made her move. With all the strength she could muster, she drove the sharp point of one of her black stilettos straight into the space between Tom’s spread legs.
Before he had even completely collapsed to the floor, she was out the door and racing down the hallway. She heard the bellowed expletives as he struggled to his feet and began to pursue her.
By then, she had reached the side door of the club and bursting through it, she found herself on the sidewalk outside. Hearing Tom bellow behind her, she runs to the curb where an unoccupied taxi is waiting for a fare. Hearing the door to the club open, she sprints for the taxi—losing one of her stilettos in the process. Flinging open the door to the cab, she dives in, slamming the door behind her, and screams for the cabbie to drive.
The cab pulls away as a frantic Tom pound on the roof—a malicious snarl on his face. Rebecca glances from Tom’s face and sees her shoe lying on the curb as the cab loses itself in New York Traffic.
Years later, Becky (yes, she was Becky again) had finally found most of what she was looking for. It wasn’t everything she’d dreamed of, but it was pretty darned good. She had a husband who loved her and a daughter she adored. And while she still chafed at some of her small town upbringing, she was pretty much at peace with the whole thing.
Oh, and she had one other thing. In a special place in her closet, she kept a single black stiletto as a reminder of how off-balanced she’d once been. She smiled when she saw it. She thought fondly of her old high school boyfriend and wished him well. And she was content with never buying another pair of black stilettos!