Bum Feet and Patchouli: On Healing the Body from the Soul

Jenny said the pain in my foot might be my man trouble.

To note, Jenny was the first to say she wasn’t sure how much she believed in that sort of thing.  The physical and the emotional, the mental and the spiritual– how they overlap and where they cross over– a mystery and whatnot.  And Jenny is not the type who wants her clients walking away feeling like they’ve just been dowsed in verbal patchouli oil.  But evidently somewhere in the line of human history, someone made the connection that pain on the right side is related to men, and pain on the left to women.  And I have been having the most rigid pain in the bottom of my right foot.

I got confused somewhere this year between Oregon and Kansas.  Maybe it was the heat that warbled visibly like poisonous gas over the black asphalt.  Maybe it was weeks of seeing strangers and friends of strangers.  Maybe it was the four, five, six hours stretches we drove between little civilizations.  But after a long swim in a flooded reservoir in the Black Hills of South Dakota, pretending I was Wonder Woman and moving logs bigger than our camper around the water’s surface, I surfaced myself with a crick in my heel and a series of flashbacks.  I was fifteen again.  Then nineteen.  Then twenty-one.  And these men turned monsters turned men were back into monsters, and more vivid than I remember.


Jenny told me I didn’t have to tell her anything.  She said that sometimes we hold on to things we thought we forgave, and then that thing that isn’t really forgiven manifests itself in our bodies, until we are laying face down on a massage table with a good friend trying to help us work out the two month old pain in our right foot.

I woke up several mornings confused as to who was next to me.  I drank too much whiskey one night and forgot who I was fighting with.  I siphoned the venom from a few angry men in my history to my present.  I apologized frequently.  I got confused again.  My Someone was patient.

It has recently come to my attention that my Someone doesn’t know the mean parts to schoolhouse rhymes.  Being the son of two teachers may explain the oversight of “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”  But being uneducated of the latter half of “I see London, I see France…” in which you declare someone’s underpants to stink (rhymes with “pink” previously) tipped me off.  This creature, this perfect creature who’s first memory is passing a ball between himself and his father, this thoughtful stringbean who cries harder than I do at the end of Steel Magnolias, this present and saintly cowboy who gets his feelings hurt when Junior High punks make a snarky comment about his tie– he drops everything hurtful like a hot pan on the fire.  And while everything in me wants to recount to him the dirty jokes written on paper folded like footballs and passed around the classroom, the loud sing-songy ridicules that echoed off locker room walls, and the ferocious and pointed threats that were whispered in the backs of schools buses, there’s something about encountering someone on a daily basis who doesn’t know that girls drink pepsi to get more sexy and boys drink rum and get more dumb that delights me.  Me, who currently carries all those cutting things in the arch of my right foot.

Jenny says its time to let it all go.  Whether that means talking it through endlessly or dropping it like the mean parts of a schoolhouse rhyme, I think she’s right.  Mostly, because the limp of the emotionally damaged isn’t covered by insurance even if I had insurance.  And because it’s a damn shame to be in Appalachia trails with a bum foot.

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