My left foot was totally indestructible. I didn’t find this out overnight. When I was in high school I broke my ankle competing in a slam-dunk contest. (I still won, but that’s a different story.) The doctors did what the doctors always do: they took a bunch of x-rays, wrapped it up in a bunch of casts, and gave me a bunch of painkillers.
Weeks later the doctors sawed off the cast and I was good to go. But I’d find out over the course of the next few years that I was better than just good to go. I was better than ever. When the cast came off and there wasn’t any sort of noticeable difference between my right foot, which had taken over one hundred percent of all leg duties, that should have been my first clue that something was different. My left foot had basically been given a month’s vacation, just swinging there limply while my right foot did all of the walking, the hopping, the kicking, the braking and the going. Wouldn’t there have been at least a little atrophy? At least a tiny difference in skin color? It didn’t even smell bad, like I would’ve expected it to after having been totally sealed in the cast for that long. It smelled cleaner than ever, like right out of the shower clean, even though I had to cover the whole thing up in a garbage bag every time I wanted to bathe.
But I didn’t think anything of it. Really, I was just glad to be back on my feet. Did I mention that I’m a righty? No, I guess that doesn’t matter all that much. But it is weird being a righty and having a significantly stronger left foot. Indestructible. I didn’t get to noticing how powerful my left foot had become until I started running, years later. I began accumulating a lot of distance on my feet, and after several months of training, I ran my first marathon. After completing the twenty-six miles, my whole body was screaming in agony. My quads were on fire. My back felt like it had taken a ride through an industrial compressor. Everything hurt. Everything except for my left foot.
It felt relaxed, strong, like if the rest of my body were willing, it could probably have done another twenty-six, easily, just hopping up and down by itself. The next day my whole body was sore. I couldn’t walk down the stairs without wincing in pain. So I found that if I just hopped on my left foot, I could get around fine, give the rest of my body the time it needed to recover.
That summer I went to the beach with my friends. We had a great time, playing volleyball, drinking beer. We quickly lost track of the hours, which was unfortunate, because I had meant to put on some sunblock. After a few hours I realized that it was too late. I was totally burnt. Every inch of my body, red, blistering, skin peeling. Every inch except for my left foot. Even weirder, the next time we went to the beach, I made sure to use sunscreen religiously, every twenty minutes. I basically hid under a giant umbrella. My body remained chalky white as usual. But not my left foot. It was bronzed, a perfectly golden tan. That’s when I became curious as to the extent of my powers.
One night after a heavy drinking session, I made the unfortunate mistake of getting behind the wheel. Of course I got pulled over and the cop made me do a field sobriety test. I could barely see straight, but my left foot somehow led my body to walk that line precisely. And then it started doing tricks. I wound up blacking out, but my friends told me that my left foot grabbed the wheel and got everyone home safe and sound. After that, whenever we went out drinking, my foot made me hand over the keys before I took even a sip. It was unbelievable.
I did say indestructible right? It’s like, if I tripped, normally I’d at least stub a toe. But now I’d actually do damage to whatever got in the way of my left foot. Its powers were so great that it took over the majority of responsibilities in my life. A short while back it got this big promotion at work while the rest of my body was still stuck as a junior assistant.
Life seemed to be moving at much different speed, at least it did on the left side of body, below my ankle. Shopping for shoes started to become this ridiculous chore. My whole body would be dragged to the shoe store more and more, I’d have to stay there forever trying out shoe after shoe. And of course I’d only be allowed to wear the left shoe. My right foot was consigned to the same old pair of New Balances that I’ve been rocking for years now.
Eventually we had to split up. As much as I would have wanted for it to stay, my left foot had a whole new world opened up to it, and I was just holding it back. It found a surgeon willing to perform the amputation. I objected, I begged it stay. “What about me? What about the right one? What am I supposed to do without two feet?” But it wouldn’t have any of it.
I woke up from the operation groggy from the anesthesia, my left foot nowhere in sight. I asked the doctor where it had hopped off to. “Unfortunately,” the doctor told me, “within minutes of being separated from the rest of your body, your left foot found itself without the means necessary to refresh itself with a constant supply of oxygenated blood. It didn’t have a brain, no central nervous system, no means of eating or going to the bathroom. What I’m trying to tell you is, it died almost instantly. There really haven’t been many, any cases of human feet surviving after being separated from the rest of the body.”
I feel bad, for me, for my foot. Mostly for me. That stupid foot didn’t know how good it had it. And here I am. No foot. My right foot is starting to get used to the new responsibilities, the walking, the driving. But it’s getting pretty independent lately, stronger every day. The other night I woke up to my foot searching the Internet, some online cashmere sock web site.
I’ll always think back to the surgery, after the doctor told me what had happened. I asked him, “Did it at least enjoy its few minutes of independence? Did it seem happy? Was it worth it?” to which he replied, “I … I really don’t know what you’re asking me here. It was a foot. You’re paying in cash, right?”