Afoot

My feet are ugly.

When I was little, I jumped down a flight of stairs and landed in a laundry basket. Four children had leapt before me, but I was the only one who got hurt. I broke two toes and the growth plate in my left foot – then hobbled up the stairs, watching the blood spread under my skin, until my foot was a blotchy mess. My mother rushed me to the ER.

An hour later, the doctor showed us the x-ray and confirmed that yes, my foot was broken. One toe was snapped clean in half. I remember wanting to touch the bone pieces, but the pain was immense and my stubbornness was not fully realized.

They set my bones, wrapped my foot in heavy cast material, and eventually sent me home. Soon after, I began using my broken foot as a weapon against mean boys (always boys, always mean). More specifically, I decided to kick the shins of every boy on the playground who teased me.

It was the first time I felt weaponized.

Every time a boy would make fun of me or call me names, I’d run up and kick them as hard as possible. Almost all of them started to fear me, but with the sort of childhood fear that is nearly indistinguishable from respect. The vibrations from my cast connecting with their shins jostled my healing bones. I had to bite my tongue as I kicked to avoid crying out alongside them.

And it made my feet ugly.

I am comfortable with this ugliness. I find some peace within it – as if this small allowance is proof that I cannot be reduced down to appearance. My feet are ugly, but that’s never made me any less worthwhile. The toes on my left foot are proof that I can heal after being broken, but more than that, they are a reminder that I am strong. I’ll never forget walking up the stairs that I had just flown above, the humility in gritting my teeth and stumbling to my mother on broken bones.

I wonder if that’s how Icarus felt, his back a mess of wax and expectations, as he plunged into the sea. I wonder if I’ll feel like that again.

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