I’ve been spending a lot of time watching Telemundo. My purpose is educational since I’m trying to reclaim my Spanish language skills which have disappeared much like the tostada from the Taco Bell menu. What keeps drawing me in to the telenovelas more than the lusciousness of the trilled R and the waxed chests is the ubiquitous Triangulo De Amor.
The love triangle.
Latin television would cease to exist without it. And, as it were, so would my marriage.
Before I stumbled into my own love triangle, my dating geometry had become much like a complicated polygon. I needed a change. And so my mother told me sagely, “Jewish men are very good to their women.” She said it matter of factly, as though everyone knows this and not just from watching Fiddler On The Roof. If I wanted to find a man I could settle down with and be happy with, he should be Jewish.
The shortest distance between two points was a straight…Jew.
I imagined my style of pursuit would need to be modified. Less talk about my upbringing in the Ozarks where kosher refers only to pickles. More talk about my love for Barbra Streisand. I would need to feign a taste for lox since a Jewish man would never tolerate my preference for bagels festooned with tofu scallion cream cheese. Finding a Jewish man in New York City proved easy enough, a lot like shooting Gefilte fish in a barrel, but I wanted the Sturgeon.
I found it when I met Asher Fineburg. He was smart, funny, had a successful career, and – evidenced by name alone – was clearly one of the Chosen People. He also ate bacon, a strike against him by Jewish standards but a boon by mine given the only dish I knew how to prepare with any confidence was a BLT. He happened to live in the highrise across the street from my office, making a run-in after work appear casual when, in fact, completely orchestrated.
Marooned in that very office one night, working late yet again, my phone rang. The delivery man was downstairs with my dinner. I leapt from my chair, noticing that my feet were bare as I’d kicked my heels off during the day. I peered under the desk, but the shoes were lost, the glare of the computer not enough to illuminate the void. I padded down the hall, taking stock of the empty cubicles as I passed. Surely someone, like a skanky intern accustomed to rolling out of a stranger’s bed before turning up to work, would have a pair of shoes stowed at their desk. My cursory search proved fruitless as the only pair of shoes I encountered were a pair of men’s running shoes residing on the feet of the only other employee there that night. I considered asking him if I could borrow his shoes, but stopped short when the image floated into my head of Human Resources chiding me for improper conduct as it applies to footwear and Manager level personnel in my yearly review.
Mindful of the limited patience of delivery men, I determined to collect my dinner without shoes. It felt strange to make contact with the tile floor with my naked feet, to feel the vaguely sticky tile beneath. I stepped off the elevator, into the darkened lobby, to meet my favorite delivery man. We exchanged food for cash while he gesticulated wildly at my feet and chortled a stream of indecipherable Thai. It doesn’t take a Rosetta Stone to know that he was saying, “Crazy white lady; why you get pedicure if you run around with no shoes?” He walked out the front door, still chuckling, and I turned to take the elevator to my floor. I pushed the button and waited for the doors to spring open. I waited longer.
Like a cold bucket of water thrown over my head, I realized the doors were not going to open without my employee card, which was probably having a torrid three-way with my wayward shoes and cell phone underneath my desk.
While I should have set about sending up a smoke signal with some chopsticks and the residue from the floor tiles, all I could think was ‘if only I’d borrowed the IT guy’s shoes, he’d have reason to come looking for me.’ My fog of despair lifted when I looked across the street to the beacon of upper-crust residential living: Asher Fineburg’s apartment building.
Of course! He will help me. He was a Jewish man, and Jewish men are very good to their women, even if they lay no actual claim to her. I rushed headlong into the bustling foot traffic of midtown. Now newcomers to New York City always marvel at its dirtiness, but if you live there, you become inured to its grit and the grime fades away.
That is until you are standing on 6th Avenue without goddamn shoes.
I tiptoed across the crosswalk as though walking on my toes would impart an air of normalcy to the situation. Only a truly crazy person would walk sure-footed across an avenue paved with flesh-consuming microbes without shoes. I went mostly unnoticed since New Yorkers are instructed to tune out the demented faction of the citizenry unless one begins to urinate directly upon you. It wasn’t until I was standing inside the lobby, appealing to the doorman to notify Asher Fineburg of his unexpected guest that my rational self appeared, like a Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder when I needed Jimmy Choos on my feet.
What exactly is Asher going to do to help you? Even if he descends from a long line of Jewish cobblers from the old country, he’s not going to fashion you a pair of shoes! Love stories never start out with ‘there she was with blackened callouses in my apartment.’
I held up my hand in a gesture of apology to the doorman who was waiting for the phone to connect with Asher’s room. I backed away from the desk and toward the revolving door when you can imagine who strutted right into the lobby.
The most tragically uncomfortable conversation between two humans who actually speak the same language ensued, culminating in an Oscar-worthy performance in which I pantomimed utter shock to see that I was not wearing shoes before excusing myself with a grand wave of my delivery bag. I walked briskly back to my office building where I ate cold Pad Thai at the abandoned security desk and waited for the IT guy to disembark the elevator.
It was that very night that I formed the love triangle, adding the third angle, as I joined Match.com and emailed my future husband. Under my profile where you’re instructed to highlight the things that turn you on, I did a resounding double-click to reject ‘barefoot is a turn-on’.
No. No. No. Me gustan los zapatos.
(I’m embarrassed to even recall this story. And I’m scrubbing my feet again just to be safe.)