I was seventeen at the time. The reason I was inside Cohen’s Department Store, waiting for the shoe department’s only shoe salesman to finish helping a young black girl… was to
find shoes for my graduation ceremony.
It’s almost impossible to forget events surrounding your one and only High School Graduation. But, what I overheard while sitting in the
shoe department that day was blatantly-wrong and not easily forgotten by someone as sexually-wary…as me.
Cohen’s shoe department was rectangular in shape and very small. To utilize
every inch of space, 12 customers’ chairs were divided into two sections of six chairs each. The chairs were then placed-- back to back--in the center of the department so it was easy to access the floor-to-ceiling shoe boxes lining each wall.
Sitting in the bright yellow chrome chair, I stared at various customers shopping in the men’s department directly in front of me while waiting for Mr. Reisenberg, the Jewish shoe salesman who’d
worked there for as long as I could remember. He wasn’t known for his customer service skills but….shoes in my size (8 AAAA)…. were nearly impossible to find and graduation was next week.
Glancing over my shoulder, I noticed that the young black girl was trying on high heeled, gold sandals. Apparently, she was going to a formal dance. Then I heard Mr. Reisenberg speak in a loud whisper: “Honey, don’t worry
about the price. You meet me in the Alley at 9 tonight, in the same place-- like before—and I’ll bring the shoes with me. I want you to give me a little more attention this time…spend more time using your mouth…but I’ll
tell you all that when we get together. And, don’t wear anything under your clothes… no panties and no bra... you understand me?” I heard her giggle a little, then whisper “sure”.
In a few minutes, Mr. Reisenberg, looking old, tired, and bored, walked around the row of chairs to ask what I wanted. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t want this no-class sexual predator putting his hands anywhere-near me…including
my feet. So I stood up, turned, and walked out of the store.
Still needing shoes, I asked my father to ride with me to Little Rock where there was a much-better selection of shoes in my size.
And, until now, I never shared my shoe incident with anyone; I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble.
Growing up, I knew most of the Jewish Families in my hometown because I served as
a babysitter to their children. I liked and admired all of them….all except for Doff Kastor, the gay ticket-taker at the Saenger Theatre and now…Mr. Reisenberg, who gave shoes to a young black girl in exchange for back-alley sex!
Now, I’m “all grown up” and don’t keep anyone’s secrets….including my own. These days, I adhere to my belief : “LET NO DEED GO UNPUBLISHED.”