At school, until sixth grade, Melanie was the tallest kid in her class. Her spot in the yearly class pictures was invariably the same — dead last, upper left. She never was chosen to hold the placard in the front row bearing the name of her teacher. She never sat anywhere but the back of the room, even though her hand was always first in the air. To her credit, she also never waved frantically at her teacher or murmured “ooh, ooh, pick me”.
In high school, things improved marginally. There were a handful of boys whom she could look in the eye without having to curl her shoulders forward. She was drafted by the basketball team and played without much skill until her knees sang out in protest. Despite the great after game parties, she quit the team and spent her free time at home with her Dad working on the house. In college, she finally found her calling as a handyman. Turns out that Melanie could fix practically anything. Living in student slums proved to be a boon, a blessing, a Godsend. There wasn’t an apartment she lived in or visited that didn’t have a leaky something or other, be it toilet, sink or ceiling.
And Melanie liked fixing things — it was her way of being a friend.
Fresh out of college, Melanie bought her first pair of heels. They were fire engine red, pointed, never comfortable but always eye catching. She rarely wore them, especially on first dates. To her what counted was the gesture of claiming her place in the world even if it was way up high. Sure, dusting off her expensive shoes that had grown dusty as they gravitated towards the back of the closet, was a bummer. But there was also the joy of knowing how to square a jig so that it cut wood consistently at a clean forty-five degree angle.
When one of the shorter guys she met in college stuck around, Melanie donated her first and only pair of high heels to Goodwill. Together, they built a cabin in the woods with soaring archways so that she’d never have to stoop down as she carried her coffee to the breakfast table. Actually, truth be told, she did most of the building, while he regaled her with stories from his far-flung childhood. On a trip back home, he showed her some pictures. It was only then that she realized she had fallen in love with the cute imp who held up the class sign in the yearly picture. (Photo: Jonah Duch)