She Knows How to Use Them
I ask Judy if she’s ever heard the phrase “cutting your heels,” like when you’re first learning something and you’re not very good at it yet, but you sort of just have to get used to it. She says the phrase I’m thinking of is “cutting your teeth.” I don’t ask her, but I wonder where that phrase comes from. Maybe it has something to do with babies and teething. How the tooth cuts up through the gum. Learning how to bite, not just slobber over everything.
What made me think of the phrase to begin with was a woman I saw the other day. She was walking in front of me down the sidewalk and I noticed her dress. It was a beautiful, pale blue. Like robin egg blue, but with less green in it. Is that called baby blue? I realized everything she had on was this same blue. Baby blue necklace. Baby blue purse. Baby blue three-inch high heels. But then I saw two huge blisters sticking out above the backs of her shoes. They were red and glistening, like two round slices of raw meat, or the wet circles on a clown’s cheeks that you probably couldn’t touch without smearing.
They were red and glistening, like two round slices of raw meat, or the wet circles on a clown’s cheeks that you probably couldn’t touch without smearing.
Her feet looked to me the way my feet feel whenever I wear the shoes a woman is supposed to. Judy tells me I have to alternate: flats one day, heels another. That’s how you get used to them. But it’s not working. Both kinds dig in deep, and now I picture that woman.
I picture her, then I picture my mother.
The couple who found my mother, as Judy tells it, were weathering a snowstorm, curled up in their living room, when one of them thought he heard a dog outside. He opened the front door and saw a woman stumbling between the domes of snow-covered cars. He pulled on his boots and jumped outside to scoop her up and carry her in. She was barefoot. They were shocked at the color of her feet. Purple meat beneath a layer of thick, see-through skin. Earthworm feet.
They wrapped her in blankets, swaddled her on the couch. It must have been a relief to them when she finally passed out. They crept silently backwards up the stairs to their soft bed. She woke them a few times in the night, howling in her sleep. But they were too afraid to check on her. And in the morning, thank God, they must have thought, she was gone. Only she took off with the boots of the man who brought her in.
And she’d left me, small and slimy on the floor. A little pink dot, not knowing how to walk or who would teach me.
Marie Hathaway received her MA in publishing and writing from Emerson College in Boston. Born in Louisiana, and raised in Central Pennsylvania, she currently lives in Vermont, where she works as a freelance designer and social media editor. Along with work in the upcoming SharkPack Poetry Review, this is one of her first publications.
Illustration by Meher Khan.