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Ridiculous Shoes

A chapter - Memoirs

By TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEYPublished 6 months ago 19 min read
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A Chapter - Memoirs

Joy (a workmate): “Write your story…”

Our company, attempting to keep up morale during uncertain times, like our imminent financial take-over, has decided to put on a challenge, encouraging us to write an inspirational story…

Me: “Heavens no! It’s much too gory!”

Joy: “I was going to write it, but I don’t know all the details…”

Me: (thinking) Uh-oh; if anyone’s going to write about it, it’d better be me…I’m the only one who really knows what happened, but…it’s hardly entertaining, ”I suppose I can skim over the awful stuff, and elaborate on the funny bits…”

Joy: “Funny bits?”

Me: (thinking about my dad being in the war, yet he had lots of funny stories to tell about it) “No matter how bad a situation, there are always things to laugh at…”

Joy: “Good…it would be an inspiration to others.”

Me: “Inspiration?” Inspiration? (Thinking again) Hardly, what I’ve done since; is downright deceitful. I’m a bloody bluffer. Maybe I’ll write about my inspiration instead…

RIDICULOUS SHOES

Only a woman would understand.

BEFORE

There’s a hush in the air – and gasps – among ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ as I twirl my blazing fire sticks around myself – even I know this is one of the best floorshows I have ever performed, and the audience’s cheers drive me on to take even greater risks – around my throat? Why not – although I have long hair I’m confident nothing’s going to go wrong tonight – around the knees? - YES – and I laugh as yet another trick is perfectly executed, and the audience are literally roaring now – throw one? Now I’m amazing myself, as I watch it spin above me and I deftly catch the blazing thing just before it hits the floor – jump over one below while twirling the other above my head? WOW – DID I JUST DO THAT?

I see the scared look on my manager’s face, because I’m attempting things I don’t normally do in my show and I give him a cheeky and hopefully ‘don’t worry’ wink. I glance at the hotel proprietor’s face and he’s actually peeking between his fingers like a child watching a horror movie, and I can’t help but laugh out loud – for only moments earlier, when noticing how low the ceiling was, along with exposed beams, hanging plant baskets and chandelier lamps, I told him his place was too dangerous for my show, but he pleaded with me to perform anyway, because the place was packed with people who had paid a lot of money to see a female fire dancer.

But I stop being naughty and concentrate seriously as I start the best part of the show, the finale – my fire sticks have hidden hooks and as my wild drumming music accompaniment intensifies, I click the two together and now in length it’s longer than I am, yet I’m twirling the fiery thing around my sides and as the music peaks, I grab hold of one end with both hands gripping and lifting, and lifting, until it’s going around myself in a wide circle as I bend backwards – higher and higher it goes way up above my head as I in turn, sink lower and lower in limbo fashion to the ground - the audience is spellbound now and in silence I can actually hear; they – are – not – even - breathing, in anticipation – then the music hit’s it’s final crescendo – and I break the trance as I have reached the floor and bring the fire sticks down and around in it’s last fiery circle; before they are extinguished and the flames die among the sand-bagged edged wet towels on the floor previously placed there, for that purpose.

Now it’s completely dark and for a moment, absolute silence throughout the hall – by the time the lights come on the audience are standing and crying out for more – I jump to my feet and bow as I think how much I enjoyed the show, or ‘showing off’; and how relieved I also felt because the hanging baskets did not catch fire, nor did I break any chandeliers, but I have exhausted myself with the extra ‘never-done-before’ feats, so the audience are not going to get an encore from me tonight – I smile and blow them kisses as I leave the stage, not knowing at that time, that I will actually NEVER perform another show quite like the one I just did, ever again –

- For soon after, and ironically; after ‘playing with fire’ my whole life, I find myself on fire – and NOT because of a dangerous floorshow, in a low ceilinged, risky environment…

THEN

It’s a dark, quiet night, and there’s a bird in the window. A large, white apparition – seemingly floating, silently watching…and…waiting?

“Do you see it?” My mother’s voice – but it can’t be, she died years ago – then a forgotten memory takes me back to when I was a little girl, and supposedly dying of bronchial pneumonia, with complications including pleurisy, and a collapsed lung. “That’s your guardian,” her voice continues, “he has come to guide you across to the other side…”

But, like that little girl so long ago, I sit straight up in bed. “No! I’m not going!”

I awake to find myself still in my hospital bed, and I’ve startled a nurse. “Are you OK?” She asks me.

I look at the window, but it’s late, and the blinds are drawn. “Yes,” I answer her, “just…a dream…”

“You’ve survived a horrible ordeal. You’ll probably have nightmares for awhile, yet...”

“Yeah…” I reply as I think of the one I have most, of me surrounded by flames. Strange, how I used to do that to myself on purpose, to entertain an audience. Only a fire-dancer gets close enough to hear the roar of the flames as they are twirling through the air – only a fire-dancer finds the danger exhilarating, like flirting with death – “But you keep giving me those damned sleeping pills, don’t you?”

I don’t really remember much of what happened, well; not consciously, even though I still wake in a sweat in the middle of the night, due to those fiery dreams – there are some hazy memories – of coming home after work – of going to have a shower and having to pass the kitchen to get to the bathroom – of seeing a large steaming pot on the stove (my partner loves to cook but at this moment, he’s in his office down the other end of the house, talking to someone on the phone) – of my curiosity (what’s he cooking tonight?) – of glancing in the pot and not seeing anything – of putting my head nearly inside the thing and still seeing nothing – of grabbing the pot with both hands and picking it up in order to get a closer look – of how it bursts into flames – I can still see the orange like film in front of my face and I remember being fascinated by the swirling black spots and thinking to myself ‘so that’s what fire really looks like close up’ – of dropping the pot – and of standing in a ring of fire in the middle of the kitchen -

There are also misty visions, like glimpses of the dog on the other side of the ring of fire, barking – of my partner running into the kitchen and pulling me out of the flames – of his distinguishing the fire using a blanket (miraculously from where? We use continental quilts, I didn’t even know we owned a blanket) and pushing a hose in through the window – I do remember screaming when he lowered me into a bath full of cold water – amongst all this happening, he must have dialed an ambulance because I also remember hearing sirens from afar, while lying dazed in the bath, coming closer, closer, all the way up the hill BUT stopping at the railway crossing and waiting for a long freight train to pass before it could get to me??? Amongst the pain I remember thinking quite clearly how absurd – how backward our suburb is, that in this day and age an ambulance has to wait at a railway crossing, instead of driving on a road going over or under the railway line – and I have timed these trains, while waiting at the crossing in my care myself – up to five minutes – five minutes – a person can die while waiting for an ambulance in this neighborhood – later, I remember hearing my neighbor and best friend calling out to me as the ambulance attendants were closing the doors to drive to the hospital, but I do not remember what she said – but soon after in hospital, I DO REMEMBER AND WILL NEVER FORGET THE SCUBBING!!!???!!! of my lower legs in the hospital – with no pain killer, just in their words ‘something to take the edge off’ which IT DIDN’T!!!???!!!

The next two weeks were spent being scrubbed and bandaged on a daily basis. The pain makes childbirth labor seem like a picnic. I remember about a week later, being amazed at how my right foot still felt as though it was on fire. As though it were still burning. As if the flames refused to go out. As if I could not douse them, like I do in my floorshow act. And this is the foot that proved not to be healing as well as the other; so a fortnight after the accident happened, it was decided I needed to have a skin graft.

Waking from the operation, I then had to cope with the fact that my lower right leg was in a cast and had to be kept raised. Nor was I allowed to even attempt, getting out of bed. When you don’t move, the body sort of goes numb. That, along with pain killers, made me unaware of something else that was happening. The cast had been roughly positioned on my leg and unknown to my blissful drug-induced state, I did not realize that the rough edge, like a jagged razor, had been tearing at my calf, and the bloody sheets had the nurses panicking that the operation had failed, and they were wondering how to tell the doctors. They were so relieved when they realized it was my calf that was bleeding instead of my burned foot, as if a ripped leg was not an injury compared to a burned one and I guess I agree, but when one of them asked why I didn’t tell them the cast was cutting into my drug induced numb leg, I just went “D-urr?” My first laugh since the accident.

A week later, I was being wheel-chaired into the shower. The nurses always seemed to forget my leg was sticking out in front because of the cast and they were always ramming my leg into everything. Don’t forget I’m high on drugs so I don’t even feel the pain from all the things we’re knocking over or into, including the walls. I do remember thinking however that although I was told my leg was in a cast to help keep it absolutely immobile, the nurses should have been informed of this also, instead of whacking it into everything.

After a week of nurses doing everything for you, and what drugs do to the system; from constipation to diarrhea, you soon lose any sense of dignity you may have previously had, and no longer even worry if the hospital gowns (I wasn’t going to wear my own pretty lingerie while all this was going on) were tied properly or not, and I felt as though I was the star of some kind of sick and stupid comedy act.

When the cast was removed, daily checking and changing of bandages continued for a few more weeks. No drugs helped as they stripped the dressings from the graft. I felt as if the foot was being sliced and grated. During this time no-one except me seemed concerned for the newly created wound up on my thigh, where the skin for the graft had been taken from. So what started out as a burned foot, ended up with a badly cut-up calf from the cast, and a large piece of my thigh was missing. And for awhile, it looked as though the graft was not going to bond, and visions of having to have my right foot amputated haunted my mind.

Then one day my doctor smiled as he was examining my foot. “It’s healing…”

I smiled. “No amputation necessary?”

He laughed. “No amputation necessary.”

“So…I’ll be able to dance again soon?”

He thought I was joking. He joked. “Time to hang up your dancing shoes…”

The smile left my face.

The smile left his face. “Oh, no…you’re not into competitive ballroom, or something like that, are you?”

I nodded. “Something like that…”

“I’m sorry, but…you have to retire…”

I didn’t respond.

He shrugged. “You’ll probably be able to manage a little…’boogie’ at parties…”

I gulped. “Manage? A little…’boogie’ at parties?”

“You’re a very lucky lady; it could have been a lot worse, you could have spilled the contents over yourself, instead of just dropping the flaming pot.” Obviously, my partner had gone over what had happened in lengthy detail, with the doctors. “It’s lucky you have a dog. If it hadn’t started barking frantically, your partner would not have run down to the kitchen from the other end of the house, and pulled you out…apparently, you were just standing there, in a ring of fire, in shock…”

I lay back down on the pillows. After saving my foot, I must have seemed very ungrateful. Still, I couldn’t resist pouting, like a spoiled child. “Boogie?”

He tried smiling again, but it didn’t quite work. “It’s still early days. Try not to think about the future yet, just concentrate on getting better, for now…”

But long after he’d left, I kept thinking, I don’t ‘boogie’; I’m a real dancer…

The next day, a nurse almost skipped into my room, cheerfully exclaiming the staples could come out now that the graft had bonded, and it won’t hurt a bit.

“Liar…”

“Trust me…”

“Ouch!”

Eventually, I was issued with a pair of crutches, my partner was told to invest in a wheel-chair, and I was allowed home. Regular check up visits continued for months. Finally, I was told I was healing well, but not to expect to walk properly, ever again. In fact, two doctors said my right foot would never be the same again, and to wear sensible shoes. I imagine this would be terrible news for anyone. But I was a professional dancer. I love dancing. I always have. Not just my Polynesian ‘Hula’ ‘Pois’ and Fire dancing, any kind of dancing. My parents were performers, I grew up watching my mother perform dances from around the world, and so have I. My favorite is Latino. Closely follwed by Flamenco. I have spent my whole life choreographing, and performing in, all sorts of shows; including festivals, and runway fashion parades (they used to have choreographed routines in those days), for model agencies. But worse than that, I am a female. Sensible shoes???!!!???

On the day I was told I would never walk properly again, I went straight to a Shopping Centre from my regular check-up at the hospital, and determinably hobbled around on my crutches, until I found and bought two pairs of the most ridiculously high-heeled, but very pretty shoes, that I could find. I think even the sales assistant thought I was crazy. He kept looking at the crutches, and my bandages, but thankfully, he did not try to dissuade me from purchasing the high-heels. No-one can tell a woman she has to give up wearing pretty shoes. Never dance again, maybe – but wear sensible shoes???!!!??? And to this day, every weekend, I try on those ridiculous shoes, and every weekend I wear them a little longer than the weekend before; and one day, I promised myself, I WILL SALSA IN AT LEAST ONE PAIR OF THEM, ALL NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was even issued a ‘permit’ to park in the disabled car parking spaces. I turned it down. THAT WOULD BE LIKE ADMITTING I’M DISABLED. So I can get quite mad when I see people WITHOUT permits parking in these areas WHEN LEGALLY CRIPPLE PEOPLE LIKE ME REFUSE TO!!!???!!!???

I do have some funny memories of this rather horrible experience too. Like when I came to my interview to work at a large financial institution (where Joy and I met). I did not want to give the impression that I may not be fit enough to work, so I left my crutches in the car, and somehow managed to stagger into the main foyer. Then I saw the stairs. A long stairway. So tall, it had a bit of a platform in the middle so one could take a rest from steps and walk a few feet without advancing upwards. While I was sitting and waiting in reception, I was hoping the interview was not going to take place upstairs. Luckily, it wasn’t. There was a small interview room on the ground floor and putting on the biggest performance of my life, ignored the pain, head held high, without grimacing, and walked like a fashion model into the room.

Soon after, I received a phone call, informing me that I got the job. “Would I be working upstairs or down?” I asked. “Up,” was the answer, and I was also told I’d be starting in two week’s time. So, I had only two weeks to learn to go up and down stairs. Now I live in a ground floor house. The only stairs we have are a few outside in the front garden. So for the next two weeks I’d hobble outside on my crutches, then, ignoring the pain, and the curious glances from neighbors, the dog barking, and my partner’s warnings I might end up in hospital again, I’d practice walking up and down those stairs; first with the crutches, until finally, only a couple of days before commencing my new job, without.

Then, within my first week at The financial institution, for some reason I no longer remember, we were all asked to shut down, and after five minutes, turn our computers back on. And of course, our PC’s were under our desks, where they should be, weren’t they? Shutting down was no problem, but how on earth was I going to crawl under the desk when I have not been able to kneel or squat since the accident, the injuries to both feet not only the right one, which was the worst one, have left the bones and muscles weak, and it doesn’t take much to make me fall, these days. So, the next challenge for me was; how to reach the PC to turn it on again without revealing to anyone that the financial institution had employed a cripple? Then when everyone was busy crawling under their desks, I took the chance to arrange a ‘fall’ and managed to reach the power button, with my teeth gritted together to prevent screaming out in pain. I literally pulled myself back out and up again – like a cripple using her hands to climb up the desk – and hoped no-one witnessed what had just happened. Since then, I keep the PC close, like; right next to my chair, within reach, but when others have sat at my desk to use it, and have mentioned I don’t have much slack in my cable, I just give them that ‘wide-eyed dumb female look’ and say “Don’t I? It works just fine for me???!!!”

AFTER

After three and a half years since the accident, the wiry looking graft now looks like a huge birthmark – the even larger looking wound on the thigh is finally paling – all other burns on both feet have healed leaving little (unless you look closely) scars – and you would never know my calf had ever been ripped.

Close friends think I’ve done well and have proved the doctors wrong. Only I know that the doctors were right after-all, the bones still ache, the joints between the toes do not move, and sometimes when relaxing while watching television I notice a ‘burning’ kind of sensation on the worst injury on the right foot and when I look down at the graft, it seems slightly swollen and red – footwear sticks to the graft, and it can be painful peeling them off – those who work around me now know why I kick my shoes off under my desk - I wore sensible shoes for awhile, but I’m gradually getting my feet used to heels again, and introduce them to a little higher heel, every few months – but contrary to what my friends believe, this is not really doing well, this is being stubborn, and refusing to listen to the experts - AND, I just ignore the pain – one gets used to it – often when I get up to walk I still totter for the first few steps, it takes awhile before I’m walking smoothly again, and I think everyone probably just thinks ‘I’m getting old and wobbly on my feet’, because until now, until this ‘confession in writing’ (Joy’s idea) only my closest friends, know that I’m a legal cripple.

I still can’t walk too far, and before this happened, I used to love ‘running over mountains’ – that’s how I like to describe it, ‘hilly terrain’ would be a more accurate description; to keep fit and keep up the required stamina to perform in floorshows. Now, however, I manage to make it from one end of the Mall to the other; concentrating on pretty dresses and shoes keeps the mind off hurting feet.

BUT, although my feet are not supple anymore, and there are feats I accept I will never do again, I have been able to do a little of the modern free-style HIP & BOP type dancing at parties. Like the doctor said, I might manage a little ‘boogie’ - work mates ask me to teach them some moves at the the financial institution parties, not realizing I can’t even walk properly, let alone dance. I have even performed a few professional floorshows since, some ‘hula’, but mainly ‘belly’ nowadays, where I do not have to twirl any fire around, that us Polynesians love to do so much. Without the running I used to do, my now ‘fuller figure’ – especially the ‘bigger belly’ - is more suitable for middle-eastern dancing now, anyway…and there’s more demand for belly than hula at the moment, due to trends. This kind of performing is done bare-footed. BUT I WILL WEAR THOSE RIDICULOUS HIGH-HEELED PRETTY SHOES AND SALSA AGAIN ONE NIGHT, IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO.

AND IT PROBABLY WILL BE

Me to Joy: “I’ve written that story…”

Joy: “Good, I can’t wait to read it…”

Me: (thinking) But half-way through writing it though, I realized…there aren’t many… ‘funny bits’ to tell, after all…

END

Memoir
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About the Creator

TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY

When I was a child, I would wake up in the night because of nightmares. As time went on, I realized that I was looking forward to my dreams. Now, I write them, among other stories as well.....

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