A long day carrying out like the long and tiring year that 2018 has been, brought me to my cramped Manhattan kitchen on a quest to turn the odds and ends in my fridge into a satisfying meal as quickly as possible, before my hunger-inspired lightheadness became a full-on linoleum faceplant. Inspired by a memory of a KFC Famous Bowl ad from years ago, I boiled some potatoes and simmered some chicken breast in hot sauce with an extra dash of resentment. My partner lazily lounged on the couch, curiously inquiring with an ingratiating lilt in his voice, “What are you m-AYYY-king darlin’?”
Forget the fact that I had returned late from work and he had the entire day free, I calculated that passing off meal duties would amount to two hours of him bumbling then cursing around the kitchen and an hour of me cleaning droplets of grease from the ceiling and scrubbing the twenty dishes he would dirty to make a one-pot meal. Of the two options, it was best I swallowed my anger and made dinner.
Besides, cooking had always been my thing. I took pride in my efficiency and found it a source of creative expression. But somehow this joy of chefdom had turned into an unfair obligation that became the metaphor for all that is imbalanced in gender equality in my relationship and the world at large. And I was tired. And hungry. And within 20 minutes, I had plated layer upon layer of mashed potatoes, buffalo chicken, chives, corn, and sour cream into the brand new Morrocan-inspired turquoise bowls that took hours of research to find online and gave me an endorphin rush every time I saw them (except for this day) before I distractedly reached for the pepper grinder and sent it flying onto the countertop. Instantly shattering into hundreds of pieces of sharp, tiny glass, a river of peppercorns cascaded down the kitchen cabinets towards my constantly under-foot chihuahua and I began shouting. This had to be someone’s fault. I was never clumsy or one to break things. Yet the more stressful that 2018 became, the more I was tripping myself up and constantly distracted and off balance. And clearly if my partner had just kept the pepper shaker on the first shelf of the cabinet instead of the overcrowded second shelf, I would have never made this mistake.
I implored my boyfriend to take the dog out of harm’s way and let me finish cleaning the mess. I was suddenly very aware that I should be careful with these precious bowls or we would be without food and I’d probably need to be admitted because so often my daily gratitude list included these damn engraved ceramic bowls that I loved so much. Lately everything I seemed to love was bound to break. I took a deep breath, vacuumed the floor three times before wiping it down with cleaner and serving my partner a bowl of lukewarm, DIY fast food. He said it tasted great and I just swallowed an acrid stream of irritation that once again things did not go as planned.
Our pup stared at us from the newly cleaned floor, begging for scraps from the boyfriend and casually shooting me a side-eye in what I could only assess as lingering judgment from my recent freak out. After we finished eating, the boyfriend took over dish duty and I poured myself a glass of wine when I noticed that something felt terribly painful in my left heel.
“I feel like there’s glass in my foot,” I casually mentioned, before raising my foot navel-high and seeing a stream of bright red blood trickling down my heel. My boyfriend turned away from the sink of dishes, noticing my injury and then instantly slapped a soapy hand over his eyes.
“I can’t look at that. I’m going to faint. Baby, do we need to go to the hospital?” he implored in a voice a near octave above his normal range.
“I’m fine,” I said as I made way to the bathroom and began flushing my heel with cold water. I grabbed a set of tweezers and began surgery. The glass had a desire to transform back into grains of sand, splintering every time I grasped a shard and squealed in anguish.
“Baby, do we need to go to the hospital? This is making me feel weak,” the boyfriend called out from the living room. I insisted I was fine and we had already spent an evening in the ER recently when his good Samaritan ways had ended with him being beaten by a sack of lugnuts in front of me. High on adrenaline on that tragic night, blood didn’t seem to phase him but my little foot drama was going to make him lose consciousness.
After ten minutes of excavating and spontaneously shrieking from pain, I thought I had scraped the foreign pieces out of my foot. Feeling confident all would be well, I dabbed some tea tree oil and antibiotic sab on the wound and hobbled to bed.
The next day, I woke and felt a lingering stab of pain in my heel when my foot touched the cold wooden bedroom floor, telling myself it was a result of the bruising and scraping from my unprofessional surgical measures. Besides, it only hurt when I applied weight on it the wrong way. I washed my heel in the bathroom sink, applied a layer of liquid bandage, and ventured into the cool November rain to yoga class.
While in class, my balance was off. I blamed the weather and my sinuses, I blamed the unevenness of the warped wooden planks of the studio floor, and even blamed the overall malaise of the year, not for a moment paying attention to the fact that my left foot was the problem. Hurrying home to shower, I ate quickly, changed into work clothes, darted downtown for a meeting, and then rushed to work a high profile party at a new event space.
As day turned into night, a sudden and insistent flaming hot stream of pain shot up from the bottom of my heel to the back of my Achilles tendon and I realized there must still be glass in my foot. I downed two Advil and began the countdown, knowing that I had three more hours of standing before I could head home and tend to this glass intruder. Mimicking a Flamingo, I favoured balancing on my right leg and watched as the sea of glitzy attendees sauntered by me. Flush against a mirrored wall behind a bar, I was sucked into my own inner world, attempting to distract myself from the pain.
How many other things had my body been holding onto? It was as if the excuse of a challenging year was enough for me to just accept that I felt lousy and stressed so much of the time. That the shift in responsibility in my personal relationship in 2018 had made it suddenly okay to hold on to resentment and anger and regret. That when accidents happened (in an increasing amount) I was somehow justified in finding someone or something to blame. All of these, were of course lousy coping mechanisms and I started a superstitious negotiation with the Universe and my body. I’ll let go of these toxic thoughts and patterns if maybe my foot lets go of this glass and I don’t end up in a hospital with cellulitis or MRSA.
I arrived home just before midnight, tossed a bag of leftover food from the event at the boyfriend, and rushed towards the bathroom.
“How was your day?” the boyfriend inquired, reaching for a plastic bag of Gouda and chomping down on a chunk before I could remove my shoes.
“I think there’s still glass in my foot! And no, we are not going to the hospital!” I shouted from the bathroom, feeling slightly less certain as the throbbing continued. “Babe, can you bring me a lighter?” I begged, filling the tub with hot water and a few drops of peppermint oil as I disrobed and the cat, dog, and boyfriend all joined me in the smallest room in our apartment.
Stepping into to the bath, tweezers in hand, I sat down in the welcoming water as the boyfriend handed me the lighter and I sterilized my tool. I thanked him and he squeamishly exited, my furry friends staying to bear witness, as I removed my heel from the water and began to massage the area. The glass had come to the surface already, the fluid in my heel angrily expelling it before I could even gently scrape away glass with my metal tweezers. Like two tiny diamonds, the sharp pieces were extracted and glittering in my hand. The relief in my heel was immediate. I took a deep breath and sighed audibly with relief. There are things our body is just not meant to hold on to. If only they all could be this easy to let go of and relief could always be so instant.