Putting Your Best Foot Sideways

(Photo: Pastry chef en croute.)

Chris showed up limping to our weekly Caribou coffee date. Every Tuesday we share caffeine before I bare my soul to my local Codependents Anonymous gang.

Usually it’s me arriving with the more interesting issue.  Chris tells me his plans for transcending his future ex-roomate (see the new roommate ad from Chris in my left sidebar).  I let him in on the excruciating details of my love life from when I was an egg onwards.

But even still and seated, Chris couldn’t help but grimace over the top of his grande iced green tea cooler.

“I don’t know.  I woke up like this.  It’s gotten worse all day.”

“Maybe you slept wrong,” I offered.

“How does one sleep wrong on a foot?”

“Huh. Maybe it was in your mouth all night?”

Our post-boyfriend flirting is always of a particularly ADHD nature.  I insult him, he pokes me, we thumb wrestle.  Eventually I tickle his belly, he kisses me goodnight and we decamp to our respective corners of Chicagoland, secure in our mutual attraction and singledom.

Yesterday’s parting ways would wait, though, until after Chris shuttled me to CVS for a toiletries run.  I had the urge to come back to the car with a large bottle of extra-strength anything.

“I’ll wait for you here,” he said, wincing.  “I think it’s that I changed shoes when I came home from work.  I don’t want to make things worse.”

Somehow, I knew what was coming.  As I left the car, a fleeting thought of my 35-mile walk to Long Island flashed through my head.  I was 19 when my best GLYNY buddy, Peter, and I decided to walk from his apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to his family’s beach house in Lido.  Urban hiker that I am, I found the 12-hour trip over the 59th Street Bridge, lengthwise through Queens and Nassau County, and across the Great South Bay invigorating.  Peter ended up in a wheelchair through finals week at NYU.

I hoped for the best for Chris as I rode a fast Green Line train back to the Loop from my meeting, fiddling with my iPhone’s new canalbuds the whole way home.  The call that came shortly after I walked in my door was no surprise.

“Sam’s picking me up and taking me to the emergency room.  I thought you’d want to know.”

“There’s a huge storm headed this way,” I said.  “You might want to know that, too.”

There’s nothing like a two-hour wait in a west-suburban hospital waiting room to make you feel your lot in life isn’t as bad as you might think.  Chris later recounted the mobile monologue from the next seat.

“No, I don’t know when he’s getting here…Well he better, I’m not sitting here alone all night…Did you hear what I just said?  I said I’m not sitting here alone all night.  My feet hurt, my back hurts…I AM dealing with it…No, I don’t know where my drugs are at, they’re supposed to be ready already…I’m not supposed to be sitting here this late…Is he there?…Look, you listen to me.  If he doesn’t get here soon I’m gonna have to start complaining to someone.”

His own call to me four-and-a-half hours later told me everything was going to be alright.

“You probably thought I was dead by now.”

“What, from the storm?  I figured you were just tired from getting a cast put on your foot and crashed when you got home.”

“It’s not broken, just sprained.  They bandaged my foot like a pig in a blanket and gave me these groovy crutches.”

“Congratulations.  Can I go to bed now?”

It was the stairs to the cellar that did the damage.  Chris has been living with an ex-boyfriend.  They started co-habitating long before their romance died out.  But the final shoe of ending their apartment share has been overdue in dropping.  The glee Chris felt spending the past week dragging up boxloads of long-stowed possessions to make his apartment his own again overshadowed the little ping he felt at some point in his right foot.

At least until yesterday.  “I really was worried about you.  I’m glad it’s not broken.  Does it still hurt?”

“Not since the Vicodin.  Essentially, you’re just morphing into clicks and whistles at this point.”

I’m glad Chris the survived the ordeal.  After all, someone has to bake me a cake when I turn 38 next week and my favorite pastry chef, is just the man to do it.  Although it wasn’t the way he had planned to spend his evening, before I let him go I asked him if he had at least learned something from the experience.

“Yes.  Never ask anyone to take you to the E.R. in a text message.  Sam said I almost gave him a heart attack.”

Some men can be too much of an island for their own good.  One of those men is a pastry chef, stumbling towards freedom and newly en croute, in Oak Pak.

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