Sailor Girl
October 28 , 2008

As I drive through Marina del Rey on my way to work (for ages now), I often see the same people walking from the parking lots and residences there on their own journeys to work, exercising their dogs, exercising themselves. Some are notable for quirky behaviors or attire, most have long since blended into the background, sad to say. I no longer really "see" them. 

But there's one woman I notice each and every time I see her, which is several times a week. She's clearly on her way to work, either from one of the parking lots, one of the apartment complexes dotted along Admiralty Way, or the block of homes abutting its northern flank. I've seen her in various stages of her walk, coming out of the park rimming Admiralty's northern edge to crossing Lincoln Boulevard at Mindanao Way, and know that she covers several blocks each morning—at least four or five, possibly more—carrying an enormous black carryall/laptop case/briefcase over one shoulder. It looks like it weighs a ton, but she's a rather muscular woman and handles it quite well. She's tough. She's in charge. Most days she looks formidable. 

I've begun to refer to her to myself as Sailor Girl—but not because she looks as if she's about to jump onto one of the boats there in the marina. In fact, she's dressed in impeccable and expensive-looking business suits, a serious corporate uniform. Conservative, not at all frivolous, no Caribou-Barbie stylin' going on here, except maybe in the tight skirts. She always wears tight skirts, and massive black running shoes. Those are understandable, given the walk she takes. I imagine she changes into her business shoes once she reaches work.  

So why is she Sailor Girl? She's about forty, though maybe not quite, tanned, blonde, with long hair in no particular style. She looks like she does some serious weight-lifting. Her arms and calves and those thighs which stretch the edges of her tight skirts look massive—not at all unattractive, just remarkable and strong. When she walks it's with an open-kneed rolling gait and solidly planted footsteps that reminds me of a sailor walking the decks in moderately pitching sea. It's so incongruous with the conservative business attire that she catches my eye every time. So much so that she's probably thinking, "There's that stupid woman in the blue Honda staring at me again. What the hell is she looking at?" 

I don't stare. Honestly. But I do look, can't help myself. Once or twice I think she's caught me looking, my face squeezed up with speculation, and the take charge woman looks momentarily insecure. And I feel bad.  

But I can't help wondering about her story. I find myself wondering what kind of shoes she changes into when she gets to work. I imagine they are not stilettos, fru-fru Manolo Blahniks or the like. She seems more of a practical, low-heeled pump kind of gal to me. But you never know. People rarely are pure stereotypes, no matter how the media and marketers like to make us think humans run in rigidly-defined ruts. Perhaps when Sailor Girl gets to work, she heaves her massive carryall to the floor, stuffs those enormous black runners inside, and pulls out delicate confections with three-inch heels and cute little straps. Slowly, lovingly she slips her feet inside and for a moment, her day holds its breath. Maybe it's the one time in the day when she feels not so much like a sailor or a corporate warrior, but remembers wanting to be a ballerina when she was five, before she was told she didn't have the right body type, that it was an impractical goal, that she needed to be strong because it was a damned bloody tough world out there. Perhaps, for that one teeny tiny moment, when the stilettos force her to rise on her toes, the only thing that matters is the dream of the dance.

Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson