I am a barefoot person. If physically and socially possible, I like to keep my feet free of shoes, socks, slippers and other claustrophobic devices at all times. I do not keep my feet naked out of vanity. I have the kind of feet that are meant to be hidden like a hunchback in a belltower. My feet are nearly as wide as they are long, which lends a squat trapezoidal shape that would give Christian Louboutin night terrors.
Negligent treatment of my feet has only harshened their appearance over time. Eight years of skating and a lifetime of shoving my feet into shoes that don’t quite fit birthed blisters that aged into thick, cracking callouses. Instead of sporting a summer sandal ready pedicure in a pleasant peachy hue, several of my toenails are blackened with bruising or are, in fact, missing altogether. Underneath my roughened skin, at least two bones are chipped and one tendon severed.
If I were motivated by vanity, the illusion created by a slimming pair of knit socks might offer me aesthetic comfort. Instead I leave my feet free to tread across hot asphalt, through murky puddles and across cold winter floors unsheathed.
As the body parts most distant from the hot lava pump of my heart, my feet go into a sort of stasis in the winter. While other body parts receive the benefit of circulation and sweaters, I rely on my youth and good health to provide just enough precious bodily warmth to keep them functional. My feet adapt to the harsher climate, often blissfully unaware of the frozen tundras of hardwood and basement cement upon which they walk. They are so happy to remain unencumbered by socks that they embrace the cold unflinchingly.
Until the moment I step into a hot shower or bath.
It is upon plunging cold feet into hot water that I realize the state of things. An ice cold glass submerged into boiling water shatters. So too do cold feet in hot water. It feels as though all of the epithelial tissue will splinter off into hardened shards. The feeling is painful and electric and painful. Upon plunging my cold feet into the hot water, my face contorts into a several wincing grimaces calling to action several facial muscles I don’t know I possess. I try to focus on any other feeling, but the shattering sensation eclipses all. If I just wore socks on the reg, the temperature shift from ambient air to hot bathwater would be imperceptible or even pleasant. Instead, I choose the hard road of foot freedom and so the shift is white hot. It steals all my breath. It hurts in the way only cold feet in hot water do.
Until that is, the cold feet are no longer cold at all and I am free to coat my hair in a much-needed shampoo.