My New Boot is not a High-Heeled Leather Accessory
And I'm not in loving the style.
It happened when I was just about to hit the four mile mark on my intended 8 mile run through the Venice Beach and Santa Monica bike paths.
About half a mile into the run, an ache developed in my right foot. “Whatever, “ I thought. “It’ll go away.” It didn’t go away. I began running slower and slower until I had to stop right in front of the Venice Whaler, my foot at this point in agonizing pain. “What the fuck is going on?” I thought to myself. I had just recovered from tendinitis in my left foot. This was supposed to be my good foot, the foot that behaved. The foot that ran as much as I told it to with no complaints. Realizing I would have to hobble home and that would have taken far too long for the short patience span I have yet to work through, I called an Uber. As I waited from some version of a red Chevy Malibu or Ford Focus, I called my mom and started to cry. It was Friday late afternoon, I’d have to wait until Monday for any real medical attention. Urgent care centers are at best facilities to get a z-pack when you have a fever or to get anxiously tested for a possibly contracted STD.
I went to the doctor’s that Monday, my stomach lurching with anxiety. What was my foot’s sentencing to be? I had just come out of a months long period of depression, a heinous cold that ceased to stop pestering me, and tendinitis in the left foo. I was convinced my body was turning to a consistency of bread dough, so I couldn’t afford any more inactivity.
Some medical assistant X-rayed me. I could see the image on the screen but I don’t know how the hell to read an x-ray. Most days I’m glad I can read the English language or traffic signs, I sat in one of those patient rooms with a table that is adjusted to an awfully awkward angle and covered with that very low quality tissue paper. Why don’t they have sheets of rolling silk panels for you to park your bum instead of that scratchy stuff? It’s a medical practice in Santa Monica for G-d sakes, not like this place is exactly in the rough area of town.
The doctor came in. I can’t remember his name and he didn’t remember mine either. You know how I know this? When he walked in, I got the, “Hello, there.” THEN he read my chart to discover my name is Jillian. Why don’t the medical assistants give the doctors the charts first? I don’t want to be called “there.” Especially for the ungodly fee you charge to withstand my presence and provide a diagnosis in under seven minutes.
“So, Jillian, what seems to be the problem?” he asks, after taking a far too obvious glance at my chart. “Well, that’s why I’m here,” I began to explain. “I was hoping you could tell me.” He may have been less than entertained by my answer, but he persisted kindly. “Well, what hurts?” Fine, looks like I’d have to do the work here.
“My right foot, the good foot,” I explained. “It hurts right here,” I said, touching the top of my foot just below my second and third toes, which really needed a pedicure upon inspection. The doctor turned around and picked up a device that must have been designed during the Spanish Inquisition and held it above my foot. “What are you doing?” I yelled, recoiling my poor foot. Doc looked at me like I should go to the psych ward once the appoint was over. Rightfully so, I suppose. “This is not a torture device,” he explained. With a few shakes, he flipped a switch would made the circular end vibrate. He placed it on the area of my foot where I was experiencing pain.
“Does that hurt?” he asked. “Well, it’s not like I’m dying or anything,” I said with as little of a dramatic tone as possible. He moved the torture device to the section of my foot right below the big toe.
“How does that feel?” he asked.
“Nothing earth shattering,” I declared. Am I the model patient or what?
The doctor switched back to the other part of my foot.
“So this hurts?” he asked, seeing my face wince.
“I guess,” I admitted. He proceeded with no dilly dallying.
“You have a stress fracture,” he said. “You’re going to wear a boot for at least six weeks. What size shoe are you?”
“Ummmm, eight and a half,” I said, not really having processed what was coming. Or what had been said. Stress fracture? Boot? No. No. No.He looked at the medical assistant, probably named Jose or Juan.
“Manuel, she’s a size 8.5, a medium should do.” The doctor looked back at me as Manuel went to fetch this so called boot.
“I’ll see you here in three weeks to see how you’re doing. We’ll x-ray your foot and be able to verify it is a stress fracture. We don’t need an MRI to determine that.”
I tried to keep my blood boil down to a dull simmer.
“And how am I supposed to not get fat?” I asked. I think I saw the doctor tremble slightly. “Well, you can do upper body strength training,” he said. Right, because I’m trying to develop muscles like Arnold was famed for.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Well, no elliptical. Maybe the bike if it doesn’t hurt,” he said
“Okay, well what can I do?” I asked. The simmer was was heating up.
“Can I swim or something?” I asked, thinking of unflattering one piece bathing suits and tight goggles. Can’t forget the flattering swim caps.
“Oh, yes, you can swim,” he said, like I was some sort of injured genius.
The doctor, striding confidently in sneakers, walked out of the room unaware he had just sent me to runner’s jail. I sat alone in the room which was now serving as my holding cell, contemplating my crime.
“So, here’s the boot,” Manuel said, walking back in with something that resembled a dated ski boot with lots of velcro. He gave me a long white sock and explained I needed to wear a thick sock with the boot or else it would start to smell. Great, more laundry on top of all this.
Manuel slipped my foot into the boot and began velcroing and slipping straps through plastic loops and zig-zagging this that and the other. I just sat there, a former marathoner who was now at the mercy of some orthopedic contraption. When Manuel was finished looping me in, he showed me the air pump, a bright red ball on the center of the boot I was to inflate and deflate every time I got into and out of the boot. I was exhausted and I hadn’t even gotten out of the office.
Manuel lead me through the office hallway, except his natural strides were no match for my botched ones. He had to come back to me and show me how to “walk” with this thing on my foot. I had a feeling this would be a long six weeks. Oh, minimum six weeks. Could be eight weeks.
I paid my foot tab of $265, because ugly boots are expensive, and hobbled outside. I called my parents.
“Can I have a five minute cry?” I asked. “Yes,” they said, the good Jewish parents who were somewhere in sunny Florida, probably sitting next to the pool near all the retired, fat people sipping weak pina coladas.
After the tears, I had the challenge of taking off the boot to drive home. Yes, I was permitted to drive without the boot as it was on my right foot, and to sleep without the thing.
Before I got off the phone with my parents, my dad had mentioned that I could have a glass of wine when I got home and just relax. I may have poured the whole bottle, but he never mentioned anything about moderation.
Fast forward three days with lots of grunts, swear words, and self-pity. Thanks to Jeff Bezos, my black bathing suit, bright pink swim cap, and goggles arrived within a day. Since Los Angeles is littered with gyms, one about two miles, or twenty minutes away, had an indoor lap pool. My self-pity and I took a drive to the gym and signed up so I could use the aquatic torture chamber. I hadn’t swam since my freshman year of high school. Flashbacks (nightmares) of practice flashed through my mind. Let’s say one season of that sport was enough.
Little did I know a cool 18 years later, I would be hopping back in the pool. At least the devil coaches weren’t there to make me miserable. Nope, I had to do that all on my own.
I forgot how boring swimming is. Just a pit of chlorinated water where you struggle for a breath every other stroke.
My god, did the minute hand on the clock on the wall just not move? Time had to be frozen. Some of my friends said that swimming was supposed to be calming. Calming? I forgot how annoying I was. I couldn’t get out of my own head. How was this calming? I forced myself to swim freestyle for sixty minutes straight, or I had to die. Maybe dying would have been preferable. But I did it. The swimming, that is.
Fast forward to day five. There are a few take-aways. First, do not try to swim at 10am. It is all fat people and senior citizens who use snorkeling gear. The deepest the pool gets is five feet. It is also crowded. As the fat people pass me, their paddling and kicking stirs up a tidal wave next to me, preventing me from taking a breath of air as the water splashes into my mouth. I stopped mid-stroke to flip one off. But he didn’t see me, his flubber was in the way.
Then, I broke my swim cap. Some things in life can’t be undone. Fixing a snapped swim cap made from silicone is one of them. With hair that ended up having more knots than Bob Marley’s dreadlocks, I kept going. Stroke, stroke, kick, kick, turn to breathe. If I get fat after this swimming endeavor, I’m going to be really pissed.