My Left Foot
I recently underwent a study on how useful my left foot actually is, because I always thought it was useless. I started the experiment by taking off my socks, which I rarely do these days. Before I could study my left foot, I had to uncover it, so the removal of the sock was necessary. After that, I took a Polaroid of my left foot and put it on the wall with a thumbtack. This would serve as a before photo, and after the study was complete, I would take an after photo. It's impossible to take an after photo before a before photo. Don't ask me why, it just is. Yeah, I think it's stupid, too.
Reason for the Study
I always considered my left foot a stranger, or at the very least, a friend of a friend. I’ve always been close friends with my right foot, and my right foot is always sticking up for my left foot, even when my left foot turns sideways and trips me. I think my left foot was always jealous of the attention I paid my right foot, which is why it was always trying to get me to notice it. Like when a kid has an abusive parent and the only way to get any sort of attention is to do something wrong. And every time my left foot would trip me, I’d get upset. It was as if my left foot was trying to make me fall and break my neck, as if to say, “If I can’t have you, then no one can.” I didn’t realize at the time that it was just crying out. It wanted to be loved. And so, after much deliberation and careful thought (which is the same thing as deliberation, but I didn’t know that at the time) I decided to conduct a study. In other words, I decided to listen.
Know Your Neighbor
I found myself a comfortable chair and put my left foot in my lap. “Hello, left foot,” I said. It didn’t say anything and didn’t even acknowledge my presence. I think it found the sudden attention a little threatening. Like the kid who has an abusive parent that suddenly decides to play tickle monster. My left foot stared at me in silence, not sure what to do. “We’re stuck together for a very long time,” I told my left foot, “so we might as well get used to each other.” I gave my left foot a reassuring smile. It came off more as a grimace. I didn’t even like my left foot. I thought it was useless. I felt like I was trying to win over a stepchild that didn’t like me, nor I them. I informed my left foot that I intended to conduct a series of experiments on it, and that it should react to them all with honesty. My left foot tried to get off my lap, but I pulled it back, and then we just sat there in silence, having a staring competition with neither of us speaking. It went on for a couple of hours, and then my right foot gently nudged me, and said, “I think that’s enough for one day.”
I woke up at 3 the next morning and carefully sat up in bed, pulled the covers off, and stared at my left foot. It was still asleep. I crawled off the bed, careful not to wake it, and then dragged my body down the hallway and to the bathroom, where I filled up the tub with cold water. It wasn’t cold enough, though, so I dumped several buckets of ice in there. And then, without warning, I submerged my left foot in the icy water. Sure, it was a cruel thing to do, but I wanted to see how it’d react. My left foot woke up pretty quick and tried to get out of the water, but I held it down. It struggled, but I didn’t let go until it’d stopped moving, and then I pulled it out. My left foot was limp, its toes all relaxed and almost lifeless. I was worried for a moment and checked its pulse. When I couldn’t find one, I glanced down at my right foot, my eyes wide.
My right foot stared back at me, and even it looked worried. It inched toward my left foot and sniffed it, and then looked back at me, and said, “I think you killed it.”
I laughed nervously and shook my head. “It’s not dead,” I said. “It’s just playing.” I took my left foot and made it dance on the side of the tub, like it was a puppet. I disguised my voice to pretend my left foot was talking. “I feel fine. I’m just being silly. Does anyone want to go for a walk?” My right foot just stared at me, demanding that I make an apology. I told it I would as soon as my left foot woke up. But I hadn’t killed it. Just because it smelled dead, didn’t mean it was actually dead. My feet always smell dead.
My left foot eventually regained consciousness and I made my apology. I stroked it, and said, “I’m sorry, baby. Daddy just gets a little crazy, sometimes. Can we still be friends?” But we’d never even been friends before. And it wasn’t like the little ice water incident had set us back to square one. There never was a square to begin with. So I comforted myself in the fact that I hadn’t lost any actual ground in my attempts to get to know my left foot. We were just where we’d always been, very suspicious of each other. But that little incident did have its upside. My left foot had now been washed and didn’t smell dead, anymore. I put some cologne on my left foot and then helped it get dressed, told it that I was taking it out on the town. It didn’t want to go, at first, but I told it that my right foot was going, so my left foot decided to tag along. So I took my feet out on the town. No, that’s a lie. I just told my left foot that we were going somewhere fun. What I really did was take it to a gym and make it walk the treadmill. I started it off on an 8 speed at a 45 degree incline. My right foot wanted to help out, but I picked it up and let my left foot do all the exercise by itself. I did a couple of hops and then slammed face first into the treadmill. My left foot hid itself under my right leg and started crying
“You’re a monster,” my right foot said.
“It needs to learn,” I replied, nursing my bloody nose.
“What the hell was that for?” my nose demanded.
“Shut up,” I muttered. “No one’s talking to you.”
Neither of my feet would speak to me. I sat on the couch, my feet propped up on the coffee table as I watched TV. After a few hours, when a commercial break was on, my right foot stood up and looked at me. I tilted my head, keeping my eyes on the TV screen. “You’re blocking my view,” I said.
My right foot cleared its throat and motioned with its big toe at my left foot. “Apologize,” it whispered.
“I can’t hear you,” I muttered, still staring at the TV.
“Say something,” my right foot told me.
“In a second,” I said. “I’m trying to watch this Hardees commercial. They always plop a hamburger down at the end and the sauce flies everywhere and the patties quiver and it’s so damn sexy. So wait a second.” My right foot glared at me, but I pretended not to notice. I waited until the hamburger had fallen and the commercial had ended, then I reluctantly looked away from the screen and stared at my left foot. It looked really sad. I sighed, and said, “I’m sorry, okay? It won’t happen again.” My left foot wouldn’t look me in the eye. It even pulled away when my right foot tried to comfort it. I could tell that I’d offended it.
“You took it too far,” my right foot told me. I shook my head and rolled my eyes, but I knew my right foot was right. Or correct, I should say, just so no one thinks that I’m trying to make a pun.
The Hard Truth
I spent the night in reflection. I had a bunch of things I wanted to try with my left foot, but now they all just seemed too cruel. What could I do? I finally decided to just leave it all the way it was. I’d keep on ignoring my left foot and pretending it wasn’t there. I actually missed the days when my left foot would trip me and make me upset. It was better than getting ignored and feeling like a monster. If I didn’t let up on my left foot, I was going to lose the friendship I had with my right foot, and I didn’t want that, not after all we’d been through. I woke up, swung my legs over the bed, and then walked to the bathroom. But I couldn’t walk. I fell flat on my face. Something was wrong and it took me a while to realize what it was. Was I drunk? No, I hadn’t been drinking. Did someone drug me in my sleep? Maybe. Did they drug me in my sleep and then take advantage of me? Oh my God, maybe. But that’s not the reason I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even stand right. It was like I was walking on the side of a hill, as if the left side of my body had suddenly gotten shorter. I looked down and saw my right foot. “What’s going on?” I asked it. My right foot was silent, and then it pointed a toe in the direction of my left foot. But my left foot wasn’t there. I rephrased my question. “What the hell is going on?”
“It left,” my right foot said.
“What do you mean it left?” I asked.
“It just did,” my right foot said. “It packed a pair of socks and just left.”
I stared at the spot my left foot would normally be. My right foot was right. My left foot had left. “Where’d it go?” I wondered. I actually felt sad.
“I don’t know where it went,” my right foot said. “It didn’t say.”
I sat down on the bed and stared blindly at the far wall. What was I going to do?
“Go after it,” my right foot suggested, like it could read my mind.
I was losing the ones closest to me and I had to make it all right, somehow. “Stay here,” I told my right foot. “I have to do something about this.”
It wasn’t easy walking without my feet. As I made the long walk to the bus stop, I finally realized how much I need them. Both of them. I just hoped that I could catch my left foot before it left for good. I made it to the bus stop, and there I found it, sitting alone under the bench, holding on to that pair of socks. I didn’t speak or even look at my left foot, at first. I just sat down and pretended to read a newspaper. I had to pretend, because I didn’t actually have a newspaper. I just held out my hands like I was holding one and I pretended to read my pretend newspaper. There was a woman sitting beside me, waiting for the bus, but I ignored her. A couple of minutes went by, and then I sighed and wadded up the newspaper and threw it away. “I want you back,” I said. My left foot didn’t respond, but I knew that it’d heard me. “I’m sorry for the way I treated you,” I continued. “It’s taken me a while to realize this, but I take you for granted. It’s hard to walk without you. I stumble without you there to support me. When you left, it was like a piece of me was missing. A very important piece. I can’t stand tall without you. I can’t stand at all. You lift me up. I promise that from now on, that’s what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to lift you up, instead of bringing you down. I’m never going to let anything come between us again. I’m sorry, that’s what I’m trying to say. I always loved you, but it took us being apart for me to finally realize it.” There was a moment of silence and I held my breath.
“That was beautiful,” the woman sitting beside me said.
I turned and looked at her. “What?” I asked.
She scooted a little closer to me and I leaned away. “I love you, too,” she said. “I accept your apology.”
I gave a nervous laugh, and said, “Gee, lady, I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to my left foot.” She didn’t understand at first, but then she saw my left foot crawl out from under the bench we were sitting on and her eyes got wide. She decided she didn’t need to take the bus and left the bus stop. “Crazy lady,” I muttered. And then I looked down at my left foot and gave it a sad smile. “Friends?” I asked.
My left foot nodded. “Friends,” it agreed. And then it smiled.
Later that night, both of my feet in my lap as I sat on the couch, watching a movie, I took the remote and pressed the pause button. I looked down at both of my feet and couldn’t help but smile. They looked so happy. “What are you smiling at?” my right foot wondered.
“Just us,” I said. “We’re a family.”
“You’re being silly,” my right foot said.
“Yeah,” my left foot chimed in. “Watch your movie.”
I laughed and looked back at the TV. I was watching My Left Foot, starring Daniel Day Lewis. “You know,” I said, talking to my left foot, “this guy leaned how to paint with his left foot. Why don’t you know how to paint?” My left foot was silent for a moment, just staring at me. My right foot held its breath and waited to see if an argument was about to unfold. But then my left foot started laughing. And I started laughing. It was a beautiful moment.
My right foot just looked at us and shook its head. “I don’t get it,” it said.
“Oh, come on,” I told it. “It’s kind of funny.”
My right foot shook its head again. “Both of you are useless,” it said. That made me and my left foot laugh even more. Yes, we were both useless. Which is why we were perfect for each other.
“Come on,” I told my right foot. “You think it’s funny, too.”
“No I don’t.”
I reached down and starting tickling the bottom of my right foot and it started to laugh. “Then why are you laughing?” I asked. “If it’s not funny, then why are you laughing?”
“Stop!” my right foot begged, as I continued to tickle it and it continued to laugh, uncontrollably. We all laughed. Even after the tickling and the jokes were over, we still laughed. We were closer than we’d ever been before. We were finally a family.
After I’d tucked my little angels beneath the covers, I gave a happy sigh and stared up at the ceiling. I was too excited to sleep. In my mind, I was coming up with fun activities for the three of us. I could take my feet ice skating. They’d never been ice skating before. It didn’t really matter what we did, as long as we were together. Life was going to be beautiful from then on. I felt like a whole person. Like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound. So I finally fell asleep and dreamed of my feet. We were walking through a field of daisies, holding hands and spinning in circles. And then a snapping noise woke me up. I opened my eyes and took a sharp breath. I immediately thought about checking my feet to make sure they were okay, but then I saw my right hand on my chest. It was just sitting there, staring at me. “What are you doing?” I asked, a little nervous.
My right hand was silent for a moment. “Just watching you sleep,” it finally said.
“You’re creeping me out…” I told it.
My right hand kept staring at me for a few seconds, and then it slowly turned around and started crawling away like a spider. It buried itself in my pants and I couldn’t go back to sleep after that. My right hand abuses me. But at least it isn't as useless as my left hand.