AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 6/08/2004 12:53:00 PM ----- BODY:

Unfeeling Beast

My mother's friend Amy gave me these shoes. They're leather, they're sandals, they're Skechers, and they were free of charge, so I was delighted to have them, particularly since I had been looking for summer shoes that aren't clogs. A girl my size and my height does not need blocks of wood to stand on and draw more attention to herself, thank you. These free leather sandal Skechers had come off Amy's feet and onto mine because she has a very high instep, and the edge of the top of the shoe was digging into it. As I have the opposite of a high instep--flat feet, no military service for me!--I figured they'd work better on me. Plus, not to belabor the point, but they were leather, they were sandals, they were Skechers, and they were free. So I put them on to go cover the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School Graduation on Saturday. Problem: the directions I got from the high school's website were to the old school. So I had to spend much time driving, disembarking my car, trudging into a grocery store, a gas station and a library to get directions, walking back, driving around some more, and by the time I got to the actual new high school, I was late. Which meant I had to park at the end of the line of cars, about twenty feet inside the entrance to the driveway. Which meant I had to walk about a half a mile, no joke, to get to the graduation. Groton-Dunstable Regional High School is set way off in the woods of Groton, with a snaking path winding up to its doors, like the top-secret compound of an eccentric millionaire. The athletic field is even further away from where I parked my car. This, of course, is where I had to go. Quickly. So I walked. And walked. And walked. And walked. And somewhere along the line I began to feel a dull hacksaw cutting into the flesh above the tiny bones on top of my feet, the kind that stick out like the bones of a fan when you flex your toes. But I had to keep walking, and I wasn't about to do it barefoot on hot blacktop and risk shards of glass or sharp rocks--my feet aren't broken in for he summer yet. So on I went. By the time I got to the field, I could feel the sickly water from blisters that had formed and burst trickling into the sole of my shoe. I kept walking, finally sinking down onto the grass. I kicked my shoes off, finally, and surveyed the damage. It looked like a rat had been gnawing my feet. And I still had to walk back to the car, walk from the parking spot in Lowell where I left the car to the Sun building, walk through the newsroom, and walk back to the car before I got home. A funny thing happened, though. Once I got used to the fact that my shoes had teeth and they were eating my feet starting with the instep, well, I got used to it. By the time I got back to the car after the graduation ceremony, it was blood rather than blister-juice staining the soles of the shoes. But somehow it didn't hurt as much. I even wore the shoes to Beana's graduation party. My parents were shocked at the appearance of my feet on Sunday. My mother told me I should maybe stop wearing the shoes. I protested, and she said, "Just because you have no nerve endings in your feet doesn't mean you should let that keep happening." "What do you mean, no nerve endings in my feet?" "Well, you're the same girl who wore roller skates that were too small when you were four years old so long that both your big toenails turned black and fell off." Oh, yeah. And I'm the same girl who had a loose tooth at Friendly's when I was around six while out to eat with my family. I was worrying at it over dinner until my father told me exasperatedly, "Either yank that thing out or leave it alone!" A few seconds and a truly horrifying "crack" sound later, and I dropped the tooth onto my father's plate. My mother just about had a bird, but my dad just looked at me, finally saying in awe, "You're tough. You're tough as nails." Maybe. But summer's creeping in again, and where other people are rejoicing at the warm air and bright sunshine, once again I find myself sinking into a strange numbness, an alien calm that borders on malaise. The kind of mental fog where I can wear shoes that rip up my feet and not feel it. I was talking to Jane from The Cult the other day, and she told me that there is such a thing as Summer SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Which I don't understand, because I thought conventional SAD was a response to a lack of sunlight and warmth, which I guess are generally things human beings are supposed to enjoy, being that we're from Africa originally. Or something. But she says it's real. And if it's real, I probably have it. And, I mean, why not? I've got every other kind of mental issue, it seems like.