The next morning, Wednesday, was a different story. I flew up and down the trail and up and over hills, punishing the pavement with the soles of my running shoes. I ran through morning showers, mist on my face and sweat stinging my eyes. I saw rainbows and storm clouds tinged peach by the rising sun. I may have cried. When I got home, I snuck back into the house careful not to wake anyone. I stood in the laundry room and stripped, throwing my sweaty running shorts and socks right into the washing machine. I took off my running shoes and immediately knew something was wrong. My foot throbbed. By the time I got home from work later that evening my whole foot was swollen.
That night, I stood in the kitchen in bare feet and showed Elise.
"Your toe is crooked," was the first thing she said.
Was it? I didn't know. I didn't make a habit of looking at my feet but the second toe on the left foot was leaning to the right, almost touching the big toe. The toe on the right foot didn't do that. But I didn't know if it had always done that or if that was a disturbing sign of something new.
I didn't run again for 5 1/2 weeks. My work shoes made it worse and I limped at the office. I went to a physical therapist who thought it was extensor tendinitis and stretched it and put ultrasound on it. I iced it. I rolled my shin with a foam roller with knobs on it the size of the Hulk's knuckles. When it wasn't better after two weeks, I made an appointment to see a doctor. I got an X-ray which didn't show anything. If it was a stress fracture, it wouldn't until the next X-ray when the stress fracture would appear as a thin white line of new bone where it was healing. I know because I've had a stress fracture before. I went to the doctor again on Friday and had a second X-ray, but there was no stress fracture.
"A stress fracture is the only thing I would tell you not to run on," he told me. I took that as the green light I was waiting for. The joint in my second toe was inflamed, pushing the tow to the side.
I ran this morning and it was all at once the most wonderful and horrible experience. I thought about the pain the entire time. With every step, I asked myself did that hurt? Did that hurt? Did that hurt? For two miles. Of course the answer was no, but I expect I'll be imaging pain for awhile. In running though, I started to feel a little bit like my old self. When I got home, I mowed the line and vacuumed the house. I am immediately more invigorated by an activity that--if anything--should make me more tired.
A short while later I fell asleep on the couch which I felt bad about because I missed important work emails. But I am mortal and falleable and fu€k I was tired. I can only finish work at 11:00 and get up at 6:00 so many days in a row. When I woke up, I tried to order flowers for Elise online. FTD.com tried to call me an hour later but I was in the shower. When I tried to call them back, the automated message said my approximate wait time was 60 minutes. Isn't that an hour?! So I hung up. I still don't know if she ever got the flowers.
It's been a long 5 1/2 weeks but that time is over and a new chapter is beginning. I'm ready for them to come home. The house plants are dying despite my best efforts to keep them alive. I water them religiosly and make them take turns at the window in the sunlight like my kids sharing the iPad . I even tried breathing on them. It's as if they sense the house is empty and my attempts to keep them alive are not genuine, but done out of guilt. It's like they're dying on me on purpose.
There is no happy medium. When the kids are here, fighting, screaming, crying, complaining that they wanted a green plate instead of the purple plate I put their fried egg on, complaining that I made them a fried egg when they wanted a scrambled egg, or complaining that I scrambled the eggs in the same pan I cooked the bacon in and now there are little black flecks of things in their eggs, or complaining when I make them steak and eggs. Steak and eggs! My dad never made me breakfast but when he did he made us steak and eggs. Steak and eggs! And I loved it. But my kids!? NO! They'd rather have a bowl of Rice Krispies.
But when they're not here all I think about is how much I wish they were here. Everything is off. Like adrift on the sea or lost in the vastness of space with no linear purpose. In the infinite, I don't know which way is up or down or forward. There are no boundaries, no one to go to bed to and no one to get up for. So I do neither.
Last night I had pretzels and mayonnaise for dinner. Elise planned a menu for me before she left and even bought me easy-to-prepare meals from Trader Joes. But I ate them all. I was once quite self-sufficient.
But It felt good and has been a wonderful release to rely on someone.
When I was in high school, every time I got a new album or cassette, I would go to my room, close the door, and listen to the whole thing, back to front, both sides, following along with the lyrics if they were there or trying to transcribe them myself if they weren't. So tonight I'm listening to music again. It's just sometging I know to do when there's nothing else to do.