It’s either an early rise, or the forced obsolescence of my workout routine. And since I’m short and bald, I have long forbade myself from also being out of shape. So when 5:15 a.m. is introduced by the sounds of chirping birds from my iPhone, I’m awake and moving. You would do this too if you’d been forced into the fraternity of male-pattern baldness at 19. Or if having your shirt off was a near-requisite for having a Miami Beach zip code on your ID.
This morning, a Tuesday, I’m moving even faster because I intend to drop my bike off at Fritz’s Bike & Skate Shop at 16th and Washington Avenue. It’s a block or so from my apartment. There are perks to having a sleek, speedy road bike – lapping the amateurs on mountain bikes as an expression of vanity comes to mind – but a persistent downside is the ease with which they acquire flat tires. Yesterday’s episode came courtesy of an otherwise unremarkable pot hole, shallow enough for most wheels to coast over, but deep enough to puncture mine. An almost-too-easy metaphor for my ego.
To my dismay, as I walk to the front of Fritz’s at 6:00 a.m., the white lights that illuminate the vibrant blue and green skate board and the matte-finished black helmet in the display case are dimmed. The door is locked; an old iron cage blocks the entrance.
Welcome to South Beach, where night clubs are open at this hour, but the sober cyclists in search of minor repairs – or god forbid, breakfast – can pound sand. (But I suppose if you find a $20 rum and Coke an adequate substitute for an omelet, you’ll be right at home).
“Fuck me,” I say, because fuck me. Life’s minor mishaps have long been an able rival to my peace of mind. Car accidents, job loss, debilitating injuries? No problem. Getting stuck behind una abuela in a Toyota Corolla when I’m trying to go right on red, or running out of almond milk and organic blueberries for my post-workout shake? Prime Mike Tyson rage.
And since the bike shop being closed qualifies as an equally minor mishap, the flames of my displeasure have been fanned – my bike will be out of commission until the weekend. No one will be able to see me ride, sweat glistening off my back. This is a catastrophic event.
But as my eyes move to the stretch of sidewalk that leads back to my apartment, I’m struck by the presence of a woman’s shoe. Not shoes plural; shoe. A solitary heel, orphaned and resting under a hazy, golden halo from the street lamp above it. Like examining a Monet, the closer I get, the more confusing the image becomes. This heel is missing its foot bed, which raises an obvious query. “What in the fuck happened to the rest of the shoe?”
My eyes scan within the vicinity of the heel, looking for what would be the obvious missing piece. The shoe – at best – came off of the clearance rack at a Marshall’s. I’ve inferred this because the base of the heel looks largely intact, implying that the foot bed was attached by old or low quality adhesive. Marshall’s would sell that. My guess? $19.99 before tax.
There’s nothing else around it. The front of the heel sits upon the edge of the sidewalk, the base of it finding rest in a shallow, gravel-filled basin where a Sabal Palm rises above the street. It’s balanced there, having somehow discovered harmony across the street from Cameo, a night club known for gunfire and social discord.
Perhaps that’s the first clue as to how this heel came to find itself here. In terms of plausible options, there are in fact just two (and these are not empty generalizations, I assure you).
Option 1. This heel belongs to a 22-year-old who lives with her parents in the Miami suburb of Kendall about nine miles west of here. The children of Miami’s first-generation immigrants live in Kendall, and they’re the only locals who still party on South Beach. Let’s call the girl Stephanie. She has perfectly straight, jet black hair with a lighter Ombre finish near the tips. She’s in a skin-tight black BCBG dress. After six or so vodka Red Bulls, Stephanie trips on the curb on her way home with a group of friends. She stumbles into a heap and her friend Valentina – also from Kendall – comes to her aid, only to discover that the heel has broken.
“Ohmygod Stephanie, your shoe, que mala. Tu eres una pata sucia!” But off in the distance, could it be? It is – the party legends of South Beach all find this 24 hour Mecca at one point or another, a reservoir for rejuvenation, but alas, the Dollar Menu is only served between 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
The broken heel is a notable event, but vodka has broken the hierarchy in favor of Big Macs, and thus, there must be casualties. I am looking at one of them.
Option 2. The other plausible explanation is that a 35-year-old recent divorcee from Milwaukee – she goes by Beth, but it’s short for Elizabeth –stumbled through here after three lychee-infused mint mojitos. “I can’t taste the alcohol!” she roars, mere seconds before she faceplants in front of the broken heel. No one has heard her cries; her friends left an hour ago with two western Europeans in skintight Diesel jeans. There’s an equal chance they were Argentinean, but it’s a certainty that they have a room at the Delano.
Frankly, if this heel belongs to Beth, she probably spent an hour or two passed out in a public garden afterward. And I don’t mean to make light of that, or move on too quickly, but this is South Beach after all. A mobile hydration bus probably had an IV in her arms hours shortly thereafter, because that’s the sort of culture we pride ourselves on here. We care for our sick. So it’s purge and rally. Stuff the blender full of wheat grass and get back out there – so long as that tummy stays flat, Beth!
Beth’s whereabouts notwithstanding, there remains a final, urgent query. Where is the other heel?
Assuming even the utmost sobriety for its owner – and I am not assuming that – it would still be a Guinness Book-worthy achievement for her to have wandered off on a solitary, chunky high heel. There isn’t a CrossFit athlete from the Alton Road location who could maintain the balance and outright strength required to walk on one heel, in the midst of a war with six vodkas. And there’d be no sense in it. When one heel is so irreparably damaged, it’s in fact prudent to cut your losses and leave the other behind as well. Her health would depend on it.
But that heel is nowhere in sight. Would she run off barefoot and keep the one good heel? That’s mad! For what purpose, when the real trophy is a foot or so in front of me.
Just then, my Fitbit chirps. I glance down, and the time is now 6:15 a.m.
I wander back home, a damaged wheel in tote; a damaged heel on my mind. I’ve got a workout to do, an image to maintain.