It was the flash of color I caught in the corner of my eye.
She was just out of range and moving closer, like the East Coast hurricanes that come up the coast each autumn. As she came into view I gazed with the childish fascination that has always been my Achilles heel.
Long, smoothly muscled thighs blessed with no cellulite graced a six-foot frame that rivaled The Mod Squad itself, but it was the item below that had drawn my attention.
Tall, tall boots, shocking bubblegum pink patent leather delicately enslaved by two fake diamond ropes criss-crossing the top of her feet took my breath away. The boots went over the top of the knee cap, with big tin buckles locking the ankles and 4-inch silver spike heels that guarded her tinsel soles. They screamed at me.
The rest of the ensemble wasn’t much different. A white spandex version of the "little black dress" hugged her body. "At least her underwear is covered", I muttered, "but I definitely would NOT wear such a garment with that kind of an ass" – you know, the small-and-skinny-but-sort-of-droopy kind. A short jeans jacket at least partially hid the plunging neckline (why do they call it a NECK line when it so clearly isn’t?). A loud cotton-candy colored chiffon scarf hung over that.
"Makeup and hair courtesy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show", I muttered again.
Short, spiky black-dyed hair with its gel sparkling under the mall lights framed her face. Large hooded eyes were made larger with blue-black eyeshadow and heavy black eyeliner and mascara and the lines of her face were made almost gaunt thanks to muddy blush (rouge, my mother called it). It was clear that this young woman had never had the benefit of modern-day orthodontics in childhood; the narrow jaw did nothing to enhance her long white teeth, not quite contained in the black-lined lips stained purple.
Dan had not even noticed until I pointed her out to him. With restrained amusement, he asked politely if that was what I had been staring at. I could not believe that he had totally missed it.
"She looks like she is trying to be a model," I said. "Maybe she is? Or maybe just a wannabe," I added, a little crestfallen.
"More likely the latter," Dan commented. He is the master of understatement, an Israeli who spent his adolescence and adulthood in England. He was trained by the best. You can tell.
We were sitting at a café in the Negev Mall in Beersheva, sipping coffee and congratulating ourselves and each other on the salad and salmon we had chosen in deference to our new diet. I love people-watching and Thursday had been no exception. As we shared our pains and our pleasures while giving our agonized feet a break, I had been recounting with relish the deal I had just cut on a purchase in the Bedouin market. The vendor (a Bedouin, naturally) had started at 100 NIS on a feenjon that was definitely not worth the price, but one that I liked.
"So I started to walk away," I was telling Dan (who had gracefully excused himself when I began to haggle and silently drifted away from that embarrassing American woman), "and the guy called me back. He came down to 90, which was ridiculous. I told him 50. He refused and said I had no idea what a valuable article this was, a "real" Bedouin coffee pot. I laughed. And told him that I lived in Drijet (a so-far "unrecognized" Bedouin village in the south of Israel). Of course he did not believe me, but chuckled and said he knew a lot of people there. So I chuckled too, and asked him if he knew the Abu Hamad family and if so, which one. Suddenly his eyes changed in some imperceptible way and he brought the price much closer, to 65. Of course I still refused and insisted on the 50, and said so in Arabic. That must have been the clincher, because he immediately came down to 50. ("yahLAH! Because you are ONE OF US!") I had such fun!!"
Dan had just asked what my husband Sinai would say to my new purchase. "Oh, he won’t even know for a while," I said airily. "He will kill me for spending money when we are so broke, especially this close to Pesach. I will just ditch it in the closet and then put it in the kitchen when he is not around. He will never notice it, trust me."
Madame Model was giving her escort a run for his money, literally. A good six inches shorter, he was nonetheless broad-shouldered and muscular, the breadth of his chest emphasized by the heavy India cotton v-neck pullover. He feigned interest in every piece of jewelry she examined – and she examined them all, in each of the three stores ringing the cafe.
I could not for the life of me take my eyes off that scene, my gaze returning to the glitter every few minutes. Dan was vastly amused, pointing out mildly that there was nothing very special about this young woman; she certainly was not beautiful in any way, certainly not in face and not even in form.
Poor Dan. I was obsessed. "Are you STILL thinking about those boots?" he finally asked with some incredulity. He just did not understand my childish nature so I decided to explain it to him.
"Look," I told him, "I have always loved glitter, even as a little girl. This is just a more grown-up version of it. I know it is gaudy... " my voice trailed off at his expression, a funny mixture of amusement and disbelief.
"Tacky, more to the point," he murmured.
"Alright already." I was still involved in watching the jewelry expedition. A saleslady was giving it her all, miming her client fastening the necklace at her throat, gesturing with bracelet in hand and talking up a storm. Said client did not appear impressed, bending to pick up a pair of earrings with apparent disinterest. A few minutes later, they were out and heading for the next display case, this time checking out the fancy watches.
"You are REALLY very taken with this woman, aren’t you?" Dan said in distaste. It was palpable, in fact, and I did my best to rein it in. "Yes. But I will behave now." I smiled at him. It was time to go anyway. We still had to shop for a sofa for Dan’s new apartment and still had to be back in time to actually sign the lease.
We headed toward the mall entrance, droopy ass and bubblegum boots gone but not forgotten – at least by me.