My senior year of high school I was lying on my back on my best friend's bed. Her bed was adjacent to the wall, and the window was set about half way between the foot and the head of her ridiculously concaved twin-sized bed. As the two of us talked about something not-particularly-memorable, I lifted my right leg up at a 90 degree angle and rested it between the wall and the window frame. While we chatted, I stared at my leg. At an age when most girls are prone to irrational bouts of self-deprecation in regards to their bodies, I was the rare seventeen year-old who felt almost reverential towards mine. My knobby knees and ugly feet weren’t pretty necessarily, but I felt this almost stifling amount of gratitude for what they did for me. My feet were connected to what – at that point – I defined as The Story of My Life. And as I mindlessly stared at my right leg, I intermittently flexed and relaxed my quad muscles, impressed and grateful for my ability to control just one part of my life.
I think about that day almost every afternoon. When I get home from work and change from a pair of pants into a pair of shorts, I cannot help but look at them. It’s foolish. I experience the same type of internal monologue when I wake up in the middle of the night to pee. It goes like this:
I wonder what time it is?
Don’t look at the clock.
If it’s within an hour of your alarm you will not fall back to sleep.
But what if my alarm isn’t set?
What if I unconsciously turned the alarm off in the middle of the night?
Do not look at the clock. Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.
I always look.
The same thing happens with my legs, but the internal monologue sounds a little different:
Kate, don’t look at them. Don’t do it. It’ll put you in a bad mood. Seriously. Do. Not. Look.
But what if my ankles are less swollen than usual?What if I contracted deep vein thrombosis during the day and I could prevent an untimely death by just looking at them?
Wait, can you even see deep vein thrombosis?
Once again, I always look.
But instead of having an anxiety attack on account of another sleepless night, I experience a combination of disgust and sadness that knocks the wind out of me. Now my bony feet are swollen, and my ankles merge into my calves, and though my knees are still knobby and my thighs are still skinny, but there is no longer any functional relationship between my mind and my muscles. The only time I even see my quad muscles flex is when my nerves misfire and my leg kicks out in a decidedly nonfunctional spasm.