Shoegazer by Mike Nagel
Like most poorly-functioning diabetics, my number one priority is keeping my feet on. My number two priority is also keeping my feet on. I have two feet. One priority each.
John tells me he used to park cars for diabetic amputees in Louisville. "All those hillbillies from down in the hollers got the diabetes and had a foot chopped off," he says.
"A foot or two," he says.
So J buys me these compression socks off Amazon. They're clinically proven to help you keep your feet on. When they arrive on Sunday afternoon I study the packaging and like what I'm seeing. What I'm seeing is a guy with his feet on.
Ooo, I think. I like that.
Most people don't know I have diabetes. It's not a very sexy disease to have.
"What is a sexy disease to have?" my therapist asked.
"I don't know," I said. "Lyme disease?"
I'd been assigned a therapist to help me deal with being a person who has something wrong with him. You need to be eased into something like that.
Technically Pam wasn't a therapist. Technically she was a nutritionist. But when I thought of her, I thought of her as a therapist. Pam the therapist, I thought.
"Let's start with the basics," Pam said. She handed me a print-out with a picture of a banana on it. The next week it was a roasted chicken.
"Let me know if I'm moving too fast," she said.
I saw Pam once a week for almost a year. We talked about simple carbohydrates. Then we talked about complex carbohydrates. Then we talked about the Dallas Mavericks’ starting lineup. Then insurance stopped paying for it and I never saw Pam again. Sometimes I think all of life is one big lesson in not getting attached.
"If you vanish and you're still here, then what vanished?" someone asked me recently, this kind of mystical guy.
Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like without my feet. I can't tell if I'm dreading it or fantasizing about it. I get those two mixed up sometimes. Part of me thinks it would be ok to not have feet. I would be the guy without feet.
"Where are your feet?" people would say.
And I would look down and say, "OH MY GOD!!! WHERE ARE THEY??!! WHERE ARE MY FEET?? HAS ANYONE SEEN MY FEET?!?! OH MY GODDDD!!!"
I would have tons of little bits like that. I would work them out ahead of time and choose the right one for the situation. I would be a really good sport about this whole thing.
He's being a really good sport about this whole thing, people would notice.
One of my goals in life is to, no matter what happens to me, be a really good sport about it.
"How's your stress level?" Pam used to ask me.
"Non-existent," I would say. "Everything in my life is a huge joke."
And now that I think about it I did see Pam again. Six or seven months later. By the pond by my office. I was out for a walk one day and saw her walking toward me. I’m pretty sure it was her. I still had my feet on. I hoped she was impressed. She was with some guy. She kept looking at him but he didn't look at her and he was the one doing all the talking. Then I never saw her again. I wish I was allowed to make stuff up.
On Wednesday afternoon more compressions socks arrive from Amazon. A boxful. J dumps them on the couch like stacks of cash in a bank robbery movie.
"Socks!!!" she says.
For dinner it's roast chicken and bananas. For desert it's just bananas. For health reasons I’ve stopped expecting anything good to happen to me ever again. I haven’t been disappointed for six years. I’m always pleasantly surprised. I don't know what happens if you vanish and you're still here. I think it was a trick question. Lately I can drink a cup of coffee at like 8pm and sleep just fine. I can't help noticing that the older I get the less I have to worry about. I'm not so sure that's a good thing.
Mike Nagel's essays have appeared in apt, Hobart, DIAGRAM, and The Paris Review Daily. He/Him Twitter: @misternagel