What does the foot say?

“My sister could vouch for me,” I said to the nurse practitioner (and again to the podiatrist during a painfully delayed follow up appointment).

This regarding the foot’s unlucky history, particularly at age 9, when it stepped square on a rusted nail sticking out of a 2 x 4 while playing a ridiculous made-up-on-the-spot backyard game with my next-door neighbor, Amy. At the time, it was supposed to be a sort of May pole dance around a twirl-able solar dryer. Whoever gets dizzy first loses? Something like that. Only it turned into a game of rusty nail roulette because I carelessly did not notice that the scrap wood at the base of the pole was full of spiky hazards, which stopped me–stunned–in my tracks.

I had heard about pain before, but what did I know of pain before that precise moment when the nail pierced my Ked and went straight for my sole?

I screamed a groaning, primal, idiot scream.

Amy was so frightened, but seemed flabbergasted that I would scream so horrifically after seeing how little blood appeared to pour out of my freshly punctured sole.

“You sounded like you were dying!” She laughed. “But look. There’s barely any blood there.”

My mom, dad and sister agreed. It couldn’t be that bad. Hardly any bleeding or swelling. It was decided that it was too close to dinnertime to venture to the ER that evening, and that my mom would take me for a tetanus shot in the morning.

At dinner, my dad explained what the tetanus shot was for, and that evening the word LOCKJAW seared into my personal lexicon. I protested that if this lockjaw could cause partial paralysis and even death, why were we all sitting at the dinner table like nothing had happened to me? Why wasn’t everyone engaging in swift action on my behalf?

“Quit bein’ sucha weenie!” My father retorted. And then they all laughed at me and kept right on eating.

That night, I dreamed the lockjaw was gonna get me.

The following day, I got the shot, but my foot received no examination. Due to my insistence that it hurt too much to walk on, I was allotted crutches and a cozy bandage. I also received a stern look of doubt and disapproval (and subsequent declaration of my total weenie-dom) from my father each day until I was well enough to ditch the crutches.

Throughout my burgeoning teenhood, I would complain about a sporadically recurring nail-piercing pain in my foot and ask if maybe something was going on in there that was related to that old idiot wound.

“Quit bein’ sucha weenie!” My dad would answer.

I adopted my father’s mountain man attitude toward pain thereafter. Why see a doctor when I could just quit bein’ sucha weenie, right?

By my mid-twenties, I knew I couldn’t get a decent massage for that foot. No way. Upon hearing this, some well-meaning friend might try to take the foot into their allegedly healing hands and would proceed to torture it–even insist that I just let go and relax–in spite of all my loud, squirrel-y protests.

It was just a choice I had to make. I could straddle a mountain or I could be a weenie about it. (The third option, actually seeing a professional, can be a daunting little rabbit hole for an unpublished poet.)

Last November I began running with the family dog in the hills above our home in Cayucos. I thought that I was improving a little each day, but after just a few weeks, I experienced a screaming pain in my problem foot while running. I felt streaks of pain coursing on the top of my big toe, as well as a pain in the ball of my foot akin to stepping on a sharp rock while barefoot. I took off my shoe, massaged my foot, wiggled my toes, and after just a minute or two I continued on home–still running. By the time I made it home I was limping and my foot had swelled slightly.

I wrapped it, iced it and I tried not to be a weenie about it. It felt better in a few days, but I didn’t try to run again for another month. I had similar results (sharp, stabby pains) when I did run next, and I had the sense to stop in my tracks that time. Within a month, I stopped walking the dog as well due to not wanting the pain to flare up again.

Then a weird thing happened last month. No matter how much I rested it, the foot would not shut up. It wasn’t happy. I began to accommodate it by hobbling around the house–gripping to furniture and walls for support, wherever possible. I wanted to ice it but it began to feel cold all the time, so I just took it in my hands and would hold on and think to myself: “If I was in a zombie apocalypse now, I would either have to sacrifice myself for the good of the fam’ or sever this stupid, twitchy thing in favor of a more useful stump.” I also prayed to Hermes, the god of winged feet, to fashion me a magic cloud on wheels for my weary, wounded paw. Good gracious, the docs at San Luis Podiatry had just the thing (except without the wheels, but it’ll sure do the job).

IMG_0624Now I’m all booted up, medicated and waiting to find out what the foot’s really been trying to say to me all these years. Maybe this thing is completely unrelated to that ol’ rusty nail. Maybe not. Either way, my therapy dog is doing well to keep up my spirits.

If ever you feel like a prisoner in your own body (unable to run headlong into the ocean on such a lovely day), I highly recommend a reading of Orange is the New Black, a riveting memoir. It’s been a great reminder that I have plenty of free time to count my blessings.

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