Does it Hurt?
personal essay - nonfiction
One day, very randomly, the bottom of my right foot started to get this stabbing feeling as if I had stepped on something very sharp but maybe like a week before. I massaged my foot and shook it out it as if to wake it up but it still didn’t feel like it belonged to me.
I had to walk around carrying lobster rolls and shrimp cocktails to people on dates over and over while the sharp feeling made its way up through my heel and into my calf. I rammed my hip on tables on accident a few times because of my balance and almost dropped a few plates. I felt like I spent the entire night apologizing for things that I couldn’t even control.
I lived with my ex husband then and our apartment was only five blocks away from the restaurant, but with the foot pain it seemed a lot further.
When I told him about the foot pain but he just rolled his eyes and told me to put some ice on it. He snored really loudly that night and every night but I couldn’t sleep because I kept thinking about how I would accomplish all of the things I normally have to do with the feeling in my foot.
The day after the pain in my foot started I walked to a bar in between shifts instead of going home. I tried to put more weight on the left side but it didn’t really help. I propped my foot up on the empty seat across from me and drank two Mexican beers. I stared at my bad foot, rotating my ankle in circles one way and then the other.
A few weeks after the pain in my foot started it also started to happen in the other foot. I decided to go to the doctor, who sent me to another doctor who specializes in feet. While I waited, a nurse showed me a chart with a collection of floating cartoon heads, each in various levels of distress with numbers underneath them. What would you say your pain level is right now she asked me. I thought about it for a second and I pointed to the second one.
The foot doctor came in and didn’t say very much except hi and I heard you’ve been experiencing some foot pain. I nodded and he picked up both of my small feet in his hands and stared at them which made me feel very self conscious. The stabbing feeling started in the right foot, but now it’s in the left one too I offered. I was attempting to get a note to get out of working at the restaurant for a few nights at the very least.
I didn’t know it at the time but when I was getting my feet looked at my ex husband was cheating on me with a girl with very bad skin who dressed up like a dark angel at a nightclub. Maybe if my feet hadn’t been bothering me I would have been less distracted.
Your right foot is flat but your left one has an extremely high arch, the doctor said with my feet still in his hands. Really I said. He asked me how I had never noticed that before and I just shrugged. Well you have plantar fasciitis he said as let go of my feet finally. We can take ex rays but that’s what it is. I nodded.
He told me that mine was very severe while he found a few stapled together papers that explained what was wrong with me. It’s pretty common, athletes get it he said and gave me the papers. He asked me if I was an athlete and I said no, because I wasn’t.
For exercise, you can swim he said. Everything else is going to be challenging.
When the appointment was over I limped to the front seat of my car and cried. It was a stupid thing to do and I tried to make myself stop, but I couldn’t help but think about an elderly version of myself, hunched over and wrinkly with velcroed medical shoes on my broken feet. I had told the nurse that my pain was only a two.
With the doctor’s approval I was able to quit my restaurant job which was good because I didn’t like it all that much anyway. My ex husband was drinking a lot at that time and he was stressed about money even though I was the only one working and paying for everything. You can’t really be mad at people when their bodies don’t work right I had said to him and he didn’t bring it up again.
After the divorce when I had found out about the dark angel girl I decided to move to Chicago. My feet started hurting less and less but I wasn’t sure why because I never swam or followed any of the instructions in the packet the doctor gave me. I began making the trip every Wednesday evening to therapy. I made a promise to myself not to cancel, not to stay in bed all day, and it was hard to do. But I wanted to try to talk about all of the things and hopefully someday get rid of all of the things inside me. The things I couldn’t assign numbers to.
One day she asked me if I thought I deserved love and I said I don’t know. Then she asked me if I felt like I deserved pain. I laughed but it came off wrong, like I was being held underwater or something. She looked at me in a way that was close to pity but I couldn’t fully place it.
I still go to therapy every Wednesday but I think I’m waiting for a packet of papers explaining what’s wrong with me that I’m never going to receive.