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Independence Beach near Sihanoukville

I met this girl on a bus in Cambodia. She had a weird thing about feet. We shared a room when we got to Sihanoukville to save money and our whole time together I only saw her feet just before she went to bed.

Our first night there she put her feet in a bowl of hot water, scrubbed off the dead skin with some kind of pink wire-wool looking thing, rubbed cream into them, then put two white anklet socks on. I asked her what she was doing and she said moisturising.

When she did it the second night, I asked her again. Her feet were porcelain, pristine, no hangnails, no clumsy clipping, no weird lumps or freckles or odd curves. There was the same gap between each toe and from the big toe down there was the same size difference between each one.

She said she had to. She was a foot-fetish model. The summer before she’d gone to Croatia and when she’d got home she hadn’t been able to get work. The stone beaches there had cut them up. Her ankles had been devoured by mosquitoes. On her second day there she’d burnt them badly and the skin had dried and flaked off. This year the same thing wasn’t going to happen, so no flip-flops and definitely no sun. 

I asked her how she got into it and she said an ex-boyfriend. She’d needed money at university, and kept on doing it after she graduated so she could go on holidays like this one.

We didn’t talk about it after that. The following day after she’d moisturised I told her I was going to take the boat or hydrofoil or catamaran or whatever to Trat on the Thai border and head back to Bangkok. She said she’d come with me. She was bored of not being able to go to the beaches and wanted to head north to Chiang Mai, maybe go to Laos.

We left the next day, spent a night in Trat (eating, moisturising, sleeping), then got a minibus to Bangkok. I was heading home and she wanted a few days to see the sights she hadn’t seen the first time she’d been there.

When I left we exchanged Facebooks and promised to keep in touch, tell each other what we were up to, meet up when we were back in Australia. I made a joke about her remembering me when her feet were famous and she laughed.

After I’d been back in Brisbane about a week I sent her a message, the usual stuff about hating being back at work and hoping she was having a good time in the north. She didn’t reply, so I waited a week or so then sent another one, shorter this time. Two days later I saw she was online so I asked her how her feet were.

She replied: in flip-flops

I said, how come?

She told me when she got back and went for her first photo shoot she decided she wasn’t going to do it anymore. The photographer had asked her if she would put her feet up his arse, go on, one of them at least. She thought he was taking the piss. He wasn’t.

I asked her what she did and she said she just got her stuff and left. So much for the fucking moisturising.

I sent her a smiley face and told her I had to get back to work, my lunch break was up and, anyway, I had nothing else to say. I thought the feet were going somewhere.

She said fine, cheerio, let’s never talk about these feet again.

I haven’t spoken to her since.

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26 thoughts on “All We Had Were Those Feet

  1. How do you make something as banal and ordinary as feet, so melancholically poignant? I just about burst into tears! I thought it was lovely.

  2. You know you’ve got a thoughtfully interesting story when the suggested links after the story are wildly varied: “Nooner…Foot Fetish Style;” “Bangkok;” and “Say Goodbye to Flip-Flop Feet.” I like the tone of your stories, that you have such a thoughtful take on interesting characters. (I’ve recently discovered Roberto Bolano, and his short stories are kinda along these same lines.) Your stories flow so well, too, just the right pace without slogging though too many details. Please keep at it — I certainly would like to read more.

  3. Very cool! I have a sort of foot fetish, although not so much mine, but others. I can’t stand to see the yellowed toenails of people who tend to be tweakers or coke heads out here. Since this is ‘Vegas, people always have their toes exposed, so I see a lot of what I could have went my whole life without seeing. Great story.

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