After saying goodbye to the young Korean clerk at the local convenience store, I began my trek homeward with a 12 pack of Belgian beer in my hand. I nodded as I passed two Spanish gentlemen playing dominoes at an outdoor table. They smiled and held up the bottle of beer each was drinking, a scene reminiscent of a Diego Rivera painting.
As I crossed the street, I heard a commotion. Looking forward, I saw a woman, naked as the day she was born, standing on the sidewalk with her hands held up high.
“The water in my Jacuzzi went cold!” she wailed, her body not even trembling from the October chill already present in the air.
Stunned, I gazed at the woman who must’ve been about 55 years old. Her soaked blond hair streaked down towards her lissome shoulder. Around her skinny right ankle she wore a silver link chain. Both her fingernails and toenails were painted bright red.
I looked around quickly. A bicyclist shot by but, enrapt in his own world, didn’t pay attention. I finished crossing the street before an occupied motorist hit me.
Approaching the woman, she yelled again. “The water in my Jacuzzi went cold!”
“Why are you out in the street like this?” I asked her.
“I need help!”
“I understand, but you just can’t go around running in the nude broadcasting your problems to the world.”
“I don’t broadcast by problems,” she protested, anchoring her fists to her waist.
“I beg to differ,” I corrected her. “At least I know about your busted Jacuzzi.”
“Yeah. That’s just one problem, but I have no other.”
The whole repartee between us was surreal. I looked around again but it was apparent no one was paying close attention. Cars sped by and bicyclists continued on their merry way.
“Look, lady,” I told her, “you need to go home and put on some clothes before they bust you for public indecency.”
“I have a problem!” she maintained angrily. “Don’t give me your rendition of street justice!”
“Ma’am, I’m just trying to help.”
“Can you fix Jacuzzis?”
“No,” I responded. “I work at a car dealership.”
“So you can’t help me. All you can do is stare!”
If I was German I would’ve tapped my own forehead shouting, “Ay, mein Gott!”
“Why don’t you go back into your house,” I cooed, “and I’ll call you a plumber.”
“Do I look like I need a plumber!” she screamed.
“Well, didn’t you say…?”
“A plumber fixes pipes and leaks. That’s not my problem.”
“Okay, okay. Give me the number of the company that sold you the Jacuzzi and I’ll give ‘em a call.”
“I don’t know the number! I don’t even know the manufacturer!”
“Why are you shouting?!”
I was so upset by then, I was howling myself. I could feel the veins bulging on my forehead.
“If you can’t find someone to help me,” she pondered, “then what are you good for?”
“What?” I countered. “I never volunteered to help you. You just happen to be in my way. I live right down this block.”
“I’ve never seen you before.”
“I drive a lot. It was a nice day out so I decided to walk.”
“Well, to me it’s cold. Is that what you like? The cold?”
“Listen, lady, if you think it’s cold, maybe you shouldn’t be out here in the altogether.”
She rolled her head back while emitting a tiny laugh.
“You don’t strike me as being that old,” she declared.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“That term you used, ‘the altogether’ to mean naked. Young people don’t use that.”
“Well, I’m kinda old fashioned.”
“Well, good. An old fashioned instinct would be to help an old woman in need.”
“You’re not so old, are you?”
I didn’t know why I was delving into that line of conversation with her, but at the time, it seemed apropos.
“I’m old enough to know that I can’t bathe in an ice cold tub.”
“Tell you what,” I reckoned, “why don’t I look at your Jacuzzi while you put on some clothes. Who knows? Maybe the fix is simple, like the water heater being off or something.”
“You don’t think I checked that already?” she queried.
The wear and tear on the nerves became apparent.
“Lady,” I informed her, my eyebrows furrowing with anger, “if you want my help, I can take a look at your Jacuzzi. If not, bye.”
I fought against uttering the words, “to hell with you.” Even though she was naked, respect still had to be given to whom it was due. Still, she stared me down with her hazel eyes and yelled, “To hell with you!” Yep, she beat me to the punch.
“Okay,” I smiled, tipping my imaginary hat. “I tried.”
Leaving her alone on the sidewalk, I continued the trek towards my home. Turning around to see if she’d left, I saw a bicyclist ride up to her. Even though I was about 100 feet away by then, I heard their conversation.
“Are you alright?” the bicyclist asked.
The naked stranger threw both hands up in the air.
“The water in my Jacuzzi went cold!”