When I was a baby, I was caught in my mother’s ribs. That was how she explained my deformed legs to me.
“There wasn’t enough room in my belly for you,” she told me while I knelt in front of the coffee table in the crappy duplex and scribbled in my coloring book. She’d removed my braces for the afternoon so I could play unencumbered. “Your legs got squished inside me.”
My mother was a leggy blond dancer, and I fantasized about growing to look just like her. I even liked her feet, which were big enough to make shoe shopping difficult. She watched TV while lying barefoot on the couch with her anxious feet swinging back and forth like a metronome, a cigarette dangling gracefully between her fingers.
When it was time for bed, she strapped me back into my braces. The pain kept me awake, but it was better than wearing them in public so kids and adults alike could stare at the white-as-bone plastic that sculpted the insides of my legs and encouraged them to grow outward instead of in.
My body still hurts. Nothing aligns the way it should. My spine is flat, my legs turn in, my knees pop like firecrackers with every motion. I can’t ride a bike. My feet hurt the most. The bones in the tops of my feet swoop upward like the backs of whales breaching the sea. I can’t run. The tendons strain and sting with the impact. My arches are high and will most likely collapse in my lifetime.
My boyfriend Jake likes to massage me, sometimes for foreplay and sometimes just out of love. I like it the most when his hands trail down to press the balls of my feet or to work lotion between my toes. When he touches my feet, electricity webs across my scalp in tiny pinpricks. Warm readiness tingles between my legs. I like his feet too, but when I grab for them, he laughs and pulls away, ticklish.
“Quentin Tarantino has a foot fetish, too,” Jake tells me. “He includes shots of women’s feet in all his films.”
I’m momentarily put off by the too in his sentence. I don’t always claim the term foot fetish. I’ll say I like feet or I think feet are sexy. It’s the fetish that I trip over, because I want to separate myself from the idea of deviance that podophilia might bring to mind — the images of serial…