“I have been told that I have elegant feet,” he said picking her up for their third date.
She had swallowed, tantalized, thinking about those feet. The imagined feet plagued her through the entire night – while he was driving the car, scrounging through the CD store, eating at the upscale restaurant, while playing word games at dinner, and on the drive home to her house. She plotted. “How do I see his feet without actually having sex with him?”
During the drive from her house, he had talked about growing up in Detroit. “The mosquitoes grow big enough to carry away small children.” She had searched the statement for hidden meanings. “Detroit is too dangerous and I left it for Kansas.”
“Oh,” she said dumb with desire for his feet.
“Now political speechwriting keeps me busy. It’s unexpectedly lucrative,” he said parking the car.
She watched him get out of the car – an older man than she usually dated. He had a fastidiously trimmed mustache. Arched eyebrows were neat and all of a length. His spare but well kept hair was gray sliced with youth’s gold.
“Depending on whom I am writing for, I grow, shave, and grow back the mustache,” he said.
He watched her watching him. Mustache, eyebrows and hair suggested light lashes but they were a thick, dark shade framing blue eyes. Startling but still …
They had walked down the street crowded with perfect twenty year olds.
“I was very skinny as a teenager and into my twenties,” he said. “Clothes were a trial.”
Inwardly she smiled at the cleverly chosen clothes covering his tidy body. He wore a comfortably rumpled linen shirt, beige jeans with a handsome leather belt, and a dark fitted blazer. But the clincher for her was the navy blue cloth sneaker with the brown leather stripe mostly hidden in the shoe’s tongue. She was unable to name the color of his thick, ribbed socks. The nondescript color of his socks united the beige jeans and navy sneakers. She concluded that his clothes were well coordinated and deliberately planned to mask the thickening of his body with age. He carried them off with an attractive nonchalance.
Her attention returned to his feet making her silent.
“Your head must get heavy with all that thinking,” he said. When he smiled, the slight padding of fat on his fine English bones made him look a decade younger than his age.
“Yes. Sometimes my hair hurts,” she said with a giggle.
As they continued their stroll, she had been curious about the type and color of his underwear. On the first date, she had taken him for a tightey-whitey kind of guy. Now she wasn’t sure. She thought he might be a hybrid, the type of man who wore the boxer-brief style but in a safe color such as gray or black. Would he be hairy on his stomach, back and groin or would he have the sparse tufts often found on blondes? Would he have freckles? Or moles? What would it matter?
“You may have elegant feet,” she said. “But you have beautiful hands.” Initially, his hands had enthralled her. They were the reason she went out with him the first time. Their hands were the same size. The skin on his hands lay flat and taut lacking the muscular depth of her hands.
“I had wanted to play the piano. Now it is too late to learn.”
“You love music?” she said.
“Yes. I have this good speaker system at home.”
“Oh. What do you listen to?”
“I love to sit between the speakers and listen to the romanticism of Schubert’s songs.”
“Why between the speakers?”
“I don’t know. Maybe better sound quality. The music asks me to sit quietly, very still as the waves of notes pour out. Do you like music?”
“Yes. I grew up in a family of musicians but I was the dancer. My feet always hurt.” She looked away. “I have bad feet.”
“They look perfectly fine to me. They seem to work. We’re walking.”
She fought an urge to cry. “What’s the difference between classical and romantic music?” she asked.
She nodded in attentive silence during his explanation. In awe over his extensive knowledge of music, she was still fixated on his footwear.
“I hear with my cerebral processes,” he said.
“What about your body?”
“It’s superfluous. When I’ve been drinking, I can tap my foot. I don’t dance,” he said.
“Do you think we have the same size feet?” she asked.
“No. I think mine are bigger,” he said with that same smile. She wondered if he would have short Freddy Flintstone toes or if they’d be long and prehensile.
“What do you do with the rest of your body while your mind and head is so active?”
“My body’s useful. It carries around my head,” he said.
She had smiled at the witticism but she was a little confused by the disconnection between his mind and body. It doesn’t make sense, she thought. He is touched to his core by music but his body stays still. She knew she moved her whole body in response to music. Each dancing teacher had said the same thing. “We have to work on your technique, especially your feet, but you’re an unusually lyrical and musically expressive dancer.”
At the CD store, he had gone looking for a vinyl copy of a CD she had played for him on their first date. She left him to wander in search of the more formally structured music she loved. She was struck by the selection of new and used CDs watched over by a young pimply girl in her late teens. The pimples covered her face, neck, chest, back, and upper arms. The scattering of wounds did not appear to upset her in the least. Clad in flip-flops, her feet were flawless – pale skinned, soft, and smooth. The young girl’s disregard for her wounds and her beauty shifted the focus to other factors, such as the proliferation and diversity of music in the store. She watched her date walk up and down the aisles of pressed discs. His feet did a fine job of moving through ankle, arch, and toes.
At the restaurant, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer. She had a lovely Portuguese white wine. “Do you mind me having a glass of wine?”
“No. I’m just tired after raking my yard all day. I don’t want to risk sleepiness driving home after a drink,” he said clicking his non-alcohol to her alcohol.
She fretted over his plans for the evening. She didn’t think he had plans to show her his feet.
Sitting at an outside table, they had shared a Caesar salad that he gallantly dished onto her plate. She move moved a toast point onto his plate after he knocked one off serving her a portion of the salad. Talk was easy and light. His feet remained tucked under the table. She sprawled on her chair. Her naked toes peeked out from under her jeans. Sandals left her feet chilly in the rapidly cooling fall air. His feet stayed under the table. She was sure they were thoughtfully arranged.
When their main course came, she had laughed with delight. Her shrimp were a fragrant pink on their woodland bed of onions, mushrooms, and grits. His tuna was seared brown with a rare red middle. She wiggled her toes in her sandals glancing over at him. He was eating away with a gusto she hoped would be available for other activities. At the dark table, their lone candle created a fuzzy halo for their meal. Arms, mouths, and faces moved towards the food and each other. The bottom halves of their bodies were quietly waiting.
They had walked back to his car, warm with food and talk, carried by their two sets of feet.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
Looking into his serious face, she held her breath.
“I have peripheral artery disease. I don’t feel much below my knees.”
“And your feet?” she said.
“Not much feeling,” he said shaking his head. “But it has other implications in my life. I want you to understand what you might be choosing in a relationship with me,” he said.
They had stopped walking to turn towards each other. She laughed with recognition and relief. He looked hurt.
“What’s so funny?”
She smiled at him as she told him a story.“I have a friend who was a Buddhist monk. Now he sells used cars. He said, ‘After a while, all cars have issues. So I keep a mechanic on staff and don’t sweat the small stuff.’”
“Small stuff like feet?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Do you know any mechanics?”
“No but I know someone who might,” she said laying her head on his shoulder.
They had continued their walk back to the car, fingers intertwined, and their feet in concert.
That night, with much laughter, they showed each other their boo-boos.
“I’ll rub your elegant feet,” she said.
“I’ll brush your heavy hair,” he said.
It was these acts of kindness that started their love. Some days he limps and other days she gets fixated on ideas. In this life, you never know where feet and head will take you.