After I broke my big right toe, it hurt so badly that one night I chopped it off with an axe and within days, it healed and began to grow back. Instead of an oblong shape, a round ball appeared at the end of my foot. Before long, the little ball became a head with a face that sprouted features. First two ears popped out, followed by two eyes and a nose. The mouth was the last to appear and when it did, it said, “Hello there!”
Stunned, I answered, “Who are you?”
“I love you,” it said, and smiled.
Gazing at the tiny head that had replaced my toe, I tried to figure out whom it looked like. There was a little of my mother in the dark eyes and high cheekbones. The nose actually resembled my childhood dog, Scout. Still it was its own unique face, and frankly, one I found rather unattractive. I felt guilty about feeling this way since Footface was showing me so much affection. “I don’t care where we go,” it repeated often. “I just like being with you.”
While performing a forward bend in yoga class, I stared at the drooping eyelids and accumulation of wrinkles around its eyes and mouth, characteristics that made the little face seem tired and old. My reaction troubled me so I went to see my therapist.
“I want to love Footface,” I whispered to Dr. Boyd, “but I’m having trouble accepting its appearance.”
Dr. Boyd asked, “Is that because she looks like you?”
“Me?” I said, horrified. “Is that what I look like?”
My therapist handed me a mirror and I saw that in fact Footface was my miniature twin. And she was clearly a girl.
Dr. Boyd suggested I practice empathy. “How does Footface feel when people gawk at her when you stroll downtown in your flip-flops?”
“It makes me want to hide under a table,” Footface piped up.
“Sometimes I feel that way too,” I said.
“She is you and you are she, and we are all one,” Dr. Boyd said with her eyes closed. After her spiritual invocation, I looked down and saw that Footface was smiling beatifically. Taking her to therapy had been an elixir.
After that session, we entered a state of grace. I took Footface shopping at Toys R Us and bought her doll-size clip-on earrings, then onto Aveda for a sample-size volumizing mousse for her hair, which had been growing an inch a week. With my cuticle scissors I created a stylish Annie Lennox do that kept her hair from dragging along the floor and collecting dust. In the spring, I surprised her with a “Let’s Get Pink” lipstick from Macy’s along with an SPF15 facial moisturizer and bronzer. She glowed when she said, “Thanks for the makeover!”
When she developed weed and tree allergies, I fed her microchips of Claritin. And in the nippy fall, I covered her head with a woolen cap that I crocheted over a thimble.
“What would I do without you?” she cooed.
We became closer each day, sharing laughs over silly everyday things like where had I left my reading glasses or car keys this time! We took hundreds of selfies at home, at the beach, and in cafes, which we posted on Facebook, receiving 983 likes in seven minutes. Sometimes I looked at her while she slept, and thought, she is quite beautiful.
Then one night while I watched “Grey’s Anatomy” on Netflix and munched popcorn, Footface blurted, “Do you really want all that butter? You’ve put on weight lately, and believe me, I can feel it.” I did not appreciate her observation. Yet, shortly thereafter, I took up jogging in my Tevas, and right away Footface complained about the impact of the pavement. So I switched to the mountain trails, but then she yelled, “You’re throwing dirt in my face.” I just couldn’t please her. Disgruntled, I turned my attention elsewhere.
A friend introduced me to a Sarah Lawrence girl who I met at a local bar for gin and tonics. We were having a lively conversation about Sylvia Plath’s poem “Cut,” and I could feel the chemistry between us, but Footface kept twitching. When the lit major went to the bathroom, Footface screamed, “Let’s go! It’s stuffy in here and besides, she’s a bitch.” When Sarah Lawrence returned she found me arguing with my toe, and said she had to leave. That night Footface had bad dreams. She tossed and turned all night, giving me Restless Leg Syndrome.
After several months of bickering, I shouted at Footface, “Shut up! I need quiet time to read Middlemarch. You must respect my love for the classics!”
She went mute, but within five minutes began chattering again, this time about her strained relationship with my other nine toes. “They treat me like a pariah,” she whined. Things got worse when I went for a pedicure. Footface went into a jealous rage and I had to calm her down with several shots of Don Julio.
I had the urge to chop her off, but had a hunch that she might grow back as one of the Kardashians.
I returned to my therapist.
“Footface is driving me nuts,” I told her. “We just don’t get along.”
Dr. Boyd said I had more work to do. If I could learn to accept myself, I would be able to accept Footface. I argued that until Footface came along, I had accepted myself, unconditionally.
“And yet you did chop off your toe with an axe,” she said, non-judgmentally.
“True,” I said, beginning to doubt that I had ever really loved and accepted myself, or anyone else for that matter. Maybe my whole life was a sham. “Tell me Dr. Boyd, what can I do to heal?”
“For starters, we should ask Footface what she needs.”
Just then, Footface fell off and rolled across the carpet. Dr. Boyd and I knelt beside her to see if she was okay.
“I need space,” she announced, sounding very independent.
“What did I do wrong?” I began to cry.
“Nothing,” Dr. Boyd reassured me. “She’s just individuating. Have faith. For now, perhaps you should both come in three times a week.”
We all agreed to the new schedule. Then Dr. Boyd and I hugged before I hobbled out with Footface rolling along beside me.
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