The Foot of the Problem
Kai Venice

"Why do you keep looking at the ground?" Emily wanted to know. "Am I not interesting enough for you?"

My mind raced to come up with a reasonable explanation. "Of course you are, it's just that I, um, stepped in some dog shit the other day and now I'm a little bit paranoid about it happening again."

"This is San Francisco, baby. I'm sure it was just a one-time thing. You know how thoughtful people are here about cleaning up after their dogs."

"I guess you're right." I said, taking my eyes off my shoes.

"You know I'm right. So let's get to this party already. We're late enough as it is." Emily grabbed my arm and quickened her pace, practically dragging me along.

I made a conscious effort to not keep looking down, and not let Emily see it if I did. There was no way that I could explain to her the true reasons why I was looking down. Not only was I avoiding cracks, but also checking my feet to make sure I was wearing a matching pair of shoes. I had already done so several times, but I still had to avoid cracks in the sidewalk. There was no legitimate reason to think that I had not put on the same pair of shoes, or that they had somehow magically changed since I had. I wasn't color blind, and didn't have any comparable pairs of shoes, so similar that it would be easy to mistake them. Besides, Emily would have noticed. Also, my mother was dead and impossible to harm. Nonetheless, I was compelled to check constantly.

One time a few weeks ago after I had left the house to run some errands, I looked down to discover that I actually wasn't wearing a matching pair of shoes. I had on a black tennis shoe and a white high top sneaker. I was mortified even though nobody seemed to notice. Had I done it, or had they changed by themselves? Anything is possible. I completed my errands as if all was right with the world, avoiding cracks. Maybe people who noticed thought I was wearing some sort of cast on one foot.

We reached the location of the party, and I surreptitiously checked my shoes again; still the same. We rang the bell and waited.

I didn't think my shoes would change in a room full of people and there would be no cracks to worry about as the place was carpeted. I felt reasonably secure. Now the only thing I had to be aware of was not looking down too often, too noticeably. And the walk home. We should probably take a taxi.

First published: August 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'