Pain had become the central focus of my attention, coloring every thought and feeling with its unwelcome presence. It was like a sharpened pencil point was digging into the soft part of my arch on the bottom of my right foot. Walking was now tortuous at best and even when my weight was off it, when I was lying on my couch or bed, it still throbbed, like the pencil was being cruelly twisted by an unrepentant sadist.
The pain had lasted the better part of a week when I finally made an appointment with my doctor. She was able to see me right away and I experienced the deepest gratitude for her willingness to squeeze me in to her schedule. But, after examining my foot and even having an X-ray taken, she could find nothing wrong and referred me to a specialist, a well respected pediatrist, Dr. Kolick. I was able to see him the next day and after his initial exam and scrutiny of the X-ray that my doctor had taken, he informed me that he could find nothing that might be causing my suffering. “Well the only thing I could suggest,” Dr. Kolick said, “is that you see a psychiatrist. Perhaps your symptoms are psychosomatic.”
“So you think my foot pain is all in my head, is that what you’re telling me?” I asked, feeling my time and money had been wasted.
“As I said, I can find no physical cause for your pain.”
“Then I guess we’re finished here,” I said, a little angry that this so-called foot specialist could find nothing wrong when it was obvious to me that there was indeed something dreadfully wrong with the bottom of my foot. Despair was kicking in.
I was so upset no cause for my pain could be found that as I pulled out of the parking lot of Dr Kolick’s office I made a wrong turn. “Damn it!” I said to the empty interior of my Volvo, wishing someone, anyone was sitting in the passenger seat so that I could just punch them. I took the first left that I could hoping to circle around the block to find the road back to my apartment. I had never been on this particular side street before and spotted a strange sign that seemed to be speaking particularly to me. “FOOT MASSAGE” the sign read. It also had some Asian characters written on it that made me curious. But the illustration of a pair of feet segmented into different bordered areas, much like a diagram of a cow is broken up in to different cuts of meat, was what hooked me. Perhaps this person knows something about feet that could help. Desperation engenders an adventurous spirit sometimes and I bravely pulled into the small parking lot.
I parked under a tree and turned off the ignition. Some second thoughts around this being an additional waste of time and money were soon dissolved by waves of sharp pain as the pencil point dug in deeper. I limped from my car and entered the unassuming store front shop with a sign in the window that was the exact duplicate of the one by the road with the addition of the price hand written in marker. $45 per session. At this point I would pay a hell of lot more to be rid of the pain.
I entered, expecting a reception area, waiting room kind of set up, like you would find in most clinical offices. Instead I immediately walked into what seemed to be a sparse examination room. I was taken aback as it looked like someone was getting worked on right in front of me. An elderly Asian woman in a white lab coat was rubbing furiously on the feet of an older man who was lying on his belly on a massage table. “Oh, hello,” the Asian lady said. “Please have a seat, I will be with you in a few minutes.”
It was strange. I felt like an intruder. But the man lying on the table gave no indication that he was concerned over my presence. So I sat down in a small chair against the wall near the door. Although the Asian lady was wearing a white coat like a doctor would wear I didn’t see any diplomas on the aqua blue walls, just some framed Chinese prints of black ink mountain landscapes. The only other objects in the sparse room besides the occupied massage table were a small desk and a simple metal cabinet.
The Asian lady seemed to be finishing up with the elderly gentleman as she gave a final slap to his heels. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Keep applying the castor oil on your feet before bed.”
“Thank’s,” was all the gentleman said. He got up to put his shoes back on. Then, as he was leaving, he gave me a smile and wink that made me uncomfortable somehow.
Once the gentleman was out the door the Asian lady in the lab coat put her attention on me. “My name is Sidha. Are you here for a foot massage today?”
“I’m not really sure if you can help me. I have had this ongoing pain in the bottom of my foot that just seems to be getting worse.”
“Well take off your shoes and lie on the table on your back. I will take a look.”
“I’ve been to a couple of doctors and neither one could find anything wrong.”
“That’s okay. I look with a different eye than most doctors,” Sidha said with a slight giggle.
I took of my shoes and laid on the table. Sidha reached into the pocket of her lab coat, pulling out a roll of breath mints and popped a couple in her mouth. “Let’s take a look,” she said as the breath mints clicked about her teeth.
Just then, another wave of intense pain rippled through my foot. “I know there’s something wrong,” I said through the pain.
She pulled up a small stool and sat right in front of my feet, bending forward, looking closely at my arch. Then she gently poked around the bottom of my foot causing even more waves of pain. I grimaced. “Sorry,” she said simply. Then she looked for a few more seconds. “Do you have anyone mentally unstable living or visiting inside your home?” she asked.
I had no idea why she would ask such an irrelevant question, but the pain interrupted any questioning back of my own so I just answered her. “No.”
“Do you ever walk with bare feet outside of your home?”
“No,” I answered automatically, But then I remembered that a little over a week ago I had taken my shoes off at a park so I could rub my feet in some inviting, freshly mowed grass. I shared this with her.
“Yes,” she said after hearing this. “I believe you inadvertently stepped in the spit of someone extremely mentally unstable, which is not uncommon as there are lots of mentally unstable people in society in these times. Of course your case is obviously acute. That person’s spit you must have stepped in held an exceptionally potent level of perverse energy that seeped into the bottom of your foot, much like an energy parasite. That is what is causing you pain. But I’m sure I can remove it.”
This was crazy. But the intolerable pain outweighed crazy at the moment. “Do whatever you need to,” I said.
“First you need to smoke.”
“I don’t smoke.”
“This is medicine, it’s the only way I can help you.”
Sidha went over to the metal cabinet and dug around inside for a minute. She pulled out a small ceramic pipe that had a look of age and ware about it. She brought it over close to my mouth while producing an aqua blue disposable lighter from her coat pocket. It matched the shade of her walls. “You need to take one deep inhale of the smoke, that should be enough for this. Try to hold the smoke in for as long as you can.” Then she lit the lighter and placed the pipe against my lips. I couldn’t see what was inside the small bowl but sucked at the pipe anyway. The pain was great.
The smoke entered my mouth and it felt like I was sucking in frozen Arctic air. My tongue and gums became numb, along with back of my throat as the smoke continued down my esophagus. Then the weirdness began. I felt myself sinking into the massage table. It was like I was going to fall through the table and onto the floor. And the aqua blue walls began shimmering with electric waves of purple and yellow. I tried to talk but my frozen tongue was having difficulty forming words. I managed to lift my head and could see Sidha working on my feet. And even in the midst of this perceptual intensity, I noticed some relief.
“Just try to relax,” Sidha said.
“Obkaay,” I said through the numbness. This made her smile. Then what I can only describe as a brown and gray fog began shooting from the bottom of my foot, like escaping steam from a ruptured pipe.
“There it is,” Sidha said, apparently unconcerned with this latest development. The fog spewed out of my foot then hovered in the air, a throbbing angry mist. Sidha calmly walked over to the metal cabinet and dug around inside again. This time she pulled out a small Y-shaped branch from some tree. Then she went to the incensed fog and began gathering it up between the prongs of the Y, like spinning cotton candy on a paper cone. I could only watch as I was now firmly catapulted beyond any rational thinking process.
“Oh yes, you are a bit of nasty stuff,” she said, seemingly speaking to the fog while manipulating it into a spherical shape with circular motions of her wrist. When she had it gathered into a tight ball she walked with it across the room and through a door near the cabinet. I could not see what was inside the room but within a few moments I could hear the sound of a toilet flushing. Then she walked from the room still holding the stick, minus the ball of pulsating fog. She put the branch back in her cabinet and pulled out a large cup, disappearing with it behind the door. It sounded like she turned on a faucet. Then she came back in the room, holding the cup, which was now filled with what I assumed was water. She walked over to me and dumped the entire contents of the cup over my head. It was a jolting shock that immediately brought back my usual thinking process.
“What the hell!” I screamed out.
“What the hell is you have been cured. Do you feel any pain?” she asked, while handing me a towel.
I took a moment to survey the feelings from my foot. For the first time in a week there was no pain. I had forgotten just how good pain free felt.
“Water is the first and best medicine and the perfect disinfectant for that ugly energy that you stepped in and that I was able to remove. You can put your shoes on now. That will be forty-five dollars please.”
I got off the table and gently tested my foot. The pain was absolutely gone. I pulled out my wallet and gladly handed her two twenties and a five.
“Would you like to come for a follow up next week?” Sidhu asked. “Perhaps I can teach how to avoid stepping in other peoples negative shit in the future.”
“Absolutely,” I said. And with the greatest enthusiasm I made another appointment.