23-June-2012 In Someone Else’s Shoes
In the bath, I hold my feet above water. I balance my calves against the white iron walls, propped up on the edge. The chill of the bath edge dulls against my warm legs and with the heat of the water; transference of heat across the full metal hull. I want to lie back in the water, let the water lap around my ears, but I’ll lose my balance, and so I hold tight with my right hand to the side of the bath, and use my left to lather the soap against my shoulder, my breast, my stomach, and then murky the water by rubbing the soap against my submerged backside and thighs.
I can’t let my feet in the water. But the water is hot, my skin is dimpling with the heat, going pink, red, raw. But it’s good. It’s good to feel the heat rising from the water, to feel the steam pamper my face. I brush a curl from my eyes and realise just how much steam there is, it has condensed in my hair, it’s dampened and frizzy. The bandages on my feet sag. They don’t feel so tight anymore.
I’m clean, I washed up my legs as far as the bandages start, but then my calves won’t stick to the side of the bath, they keep slipping and I have to flex my stomach muscles to keep my legs at the right angle, to keep my feet out the bath.
“I’m done now!” I call. My voice reverberates in the tiled bathroom. It sounds tinny, flat. “I’m done!” Out the window there are two sparrows on the ledge. I like the way they hop about, their little legs and pronged toes seem to thrust them into their air without knees.
She helps me out of the bath, but I don’t look at her. I don’t want her to see me. She helps me into a wheelchair draped with a huge towel, a bath sheet they call it. She lets me dry myself with a second towel.
When I am dressed she tells me that I got the bandages wet. No, I tell her, I didn’t let my feet in the water at all. I was very, very careful. She says the water must have been too hot, too much steam. Next time we’ll put my bandaged feet inside plastic bags to stop the steam, and hope my feet don’t sweat too much.
When I am dressed she wheels me back to my room. She brings me breakfast. Thick, fluffy American style hot cakes with fried banana and golden syrup. But after breakfast she comes in with fresh bandages.
“I don’t want to look.” I say.
“You don’t have to.” She says.
“But I don’t want you to see.”
“Oh baby,” she says. I want her to go back to her job. I don’t like her being here all the time. I feel bad. When I look at her, she’s always frowning. Her lips are always pursed, down turned, not sour like, but she’s not happy. She loved her job. She worked at a Museum. Not with the visitors, in the back, with microscopes and ledgers of research. She wrote papers on geology for the University. She says she’s still working on papers. Says she writes them when I’m working or when I sleep.
“Maybe they’ll look better Today, they’ve had a few days of healing”
“They won’t look better” I’m sure of it. They don’t feel any better. Though I try not to think about how they feel. I’d almost rather my legs just stopped at the ankle. But then, there would be no chance at all of getting better, of walking, of going back to work proper, or of her getting her damn life back from me. It’s like I’m leeching, but getting no more for it. What’s the point in that?
She takes my foot up from the padded foot rest. She’s gentle, soft hands. I only feel them when she’s looking after me now. We don’t cuddle or fondle anymore. I’m not sure what to blame for that. It’s me I think. At first she was the same, but I was never interested. I miss her now. Instead of letting her untie my bandage, I take her hand and bring it up to my lips. I kiss her fingers.
She smiles at me. Not a pretend smile, a feigned one, or one forced out by consciousness. She really smiled. She leans up and kisses me full on the lips.
“You’re getting better.” She says.
“But not my feet” I say
She unwraps my feet and follows the procedure the nurses showed her back at the hospital for re bandaging, for taking care of my feet. It’s quick, she’s deft at it now. I don’t watch though. I don’t want to see. I feel a surge of hope when she’s peeling off the last length. But nothing is different, her breath stays even, she says nothing.
Then I’m all bandaged up again, and I finally look at her again, direct like, right at her eyes and she’s still smiling.
“Maybe not your feet, but you’re getting better.”