Servicing Heinrich’s Boots

    I’m going to see my friend Heinrich this weekend!  I haven’t seen him once this year.  He was working for a museum in Germany and before that he was training his girlfriend at her place in another city most weekends.  

    I apprenticed under Heinrich for a while when I first relocated to this area.  He taught me lots of stuff.  I wrote about it once on this blog–one of the first entries.  

       I almost had sex with him this time.  Almost, but didn’t.  

          *                       *                      *                     *     

     At 4 PM, I rapped on Heinrich’s door.  Nervous.  

     He didn’t answer the door himself, but I heard his voice shout to come inside.

    I tried the doorknob; it twisted in my hand, and I entered.  The short, narrow dark hallway, with a coat closet on the right.  Beyond that, the living room, lighted with late-afternoon sunshine.  I moved towards it.  

     Heinrich was sitting in the middle of his living room, in a chair he’d pulled out from against the wall.  We’d spent a lot of time together in that room.  He’d generously taught me many things there.  The sunlight coming in from the windows illuminated his sandy blonde hair.  He was wearing a white undershirt–shockingly informal for him; I’d never seen him so undressed–and brown trousers and a pair of boots.  They were not my favorite boots of his, but they were my second favorite.  They were black with a brown stripe at the tops.  

    Bach on the stereo, as usual.  Heinrich is a Bach fanatic.  The music was some fugue.  I don’t remember which one, but I’d recognize it if I heard it now.  He was also drinking, which was unusual (for the record: I never saw the man drunk–ever).  

     I froze, unsure of what to do.  Most of the time, he was my teacher, and treated me like a friend.  Occasionally–at my request–he would dominate me.  He did not take the initiative in this.  I had to ask for it.  That is typically his method; it gives him the most power, the power of rejection.  

     This time was different.

     “Did you bring what you need?” he asked.


     “I’ll see.  Drop the bag.  Take off your blouse.”

     I put the bag on the floor and my hands flew to my blouse buttons.  One, two.

     “Not so fast.  Slow!”

     I forced my hands to move more slowly and concentrated on the patch of floor just in front of his feet.  Adrenaline had lit me up, coursing through my bloodstream.  

    “Look at me,” he said.

    I couldn’t look at him.  I raised my eyes, looked down, raised them again.  Eventually I settled on the space just beside his head.  

     I got my shirt off, folded it, and placed it on a chair against the wall.  

     “What are you here to do for me?” he asked.

     I gestured towards the bag.  Mouth suddenly dry. “I’m going to work on your boots, Herr Romer.”  

      “Do it, then.”

      I ran forward and practically fell at his feet.  It was awkward, because I am a clumsy girl.  My knees knocked on the hard wooden floors.  I didn’t even feel it.  I removed the tools from my bag.

     “You know, I hope you know what you are doing.  I will know if you lied to me.  Do you know what you are doing?”

      I nodded.  Couldn’t look at him.  “I think so.”

     “That is not a confident answer.”

      I didn’t know what to say to that.

      He nudged me with his boot.  “Go.” 

     In my sack, I’d brought all of the tools necessary for a good shoeshine: Kiwi polish, soft brush, hard brush, bottle of water, two fresh soft rags, paper towels. 

      My father taught me this skill.  Every man in my immediate family served in the military.  The shoes are immaculate.  To his credit, I had the cleanest, shiniest shoes at my Catholic school.  

     I went to work.

     For those of you who have never done it, let me tell you: shining shoes is hard fucking work.  If you get your shoes attended to by someone at your local train station, you ought to tip them an extra few bucks beyond what you already pay, because it’s a laborious task–especially if you’re doing it quickly.  You have to press that rag, and the polish, into the leather.  A light touch just ain’t gonna do it.  The hands are contorted into unnatural positions for an extended period of time.  You get cramps.  And you are down there.  Down there.  Up close and personal.  It’s an intimate service, and it makes you sweat.  

     “Do not get that on my floor,” I heard Heinrich say when cloth started to get very blackened with polish.  “I hope for your sake you do not get that on my floor.”  

      I took the soft shoe brush.  Worked it over.  

      “Are you missing a step in the process?  Sure you haf done it all?” he asked me.  I could feel him leaning over me.  The tinkle of ice in the glass.  I kept having to toss my hair back because I couldn’t touch it with my polish-stained hands.  

     I nodded, not looking at him.  I was embarrassed by how unkept I looked.  The sweat between my breasts.  


     I took the last cloth and gave his boots a good gloss.  I was afraid to stop working on them.  That is how obsessed I get.  Something can always be improved, be better.  Even without the threat of punishment or disaster, that is how I approach my work.  

     Eventually, when he sighed, I stopped.

     “Well, what do you have to say?” he asked.

     I floundered.  “Thank you, Sir…?”  

     Seemed like a safe bet.  How can one go wrong with that? 

    “Don’t you like my boots, Margo?” 


    “Show me.” 

    I bent again and started to grovel over the toe of his left shoe.  After a moment, he took his right and placed it over my head, pressing it into the floor.  

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