Even though it has been swelling to a throbbing tightness, you decide not to pop the blister, the artifact of a day at the amusement park. You wore sandals, Keens, the ones composed of two cords and a sole. They weren’t new; you’d had them for years. They moved you between the entrance lines of roller coasters. Not keen to trigger your heart or aggravate the hive of wasps that has become your vestibular system, you skipped the rides, and instead babysat bags and water bottles under whatever shade trees you could find. You wore the sandals into the water park, kicking the resistance of them behind you in the wave pool. You wore them out to parking lot and back, schlepping a cooler of packed sandwiches, chips, grapes, and cherries to hungry children – nephews and nieces and your own adult daughter and her boyfriend. And sometime during the day, a moment unlogged among the eighteen thousand and five hundred three steps your watch app reports, your body expresses its displeasure via epidermal friction. In the space between your big and second toe, the upper skin rubs over the underlying layer. A gap opens. Fluid leaks in, plasma from surrounding cells. It’s likely the moisture that does it, a kind of modern-day recreational trench foot. Why your left foot only? You cannot say.
When your guests are in bed that night and settled, you read about friction blisters. They’re caused by excess shear stress. You might even say it aloud, shear stress, and then, sheer stress, playing like you do with the words, the metaphor. You examine the tender white bubble, pink around its circumference. You want to end the pressure. It’s uncomfortable. You don’t want to feel it.
Leave well enough alone, you think. And you’ve never been good at that. You’ve never once left a blister (among other things) to heal on its own. It’s your devil, your ego. Your devil thinks she has control, thinks she can fix things, believes that she can stop the pain, stop the suffering. Your devil wants to intervene, craves the virtue of boiling water, or flame at the end of a lighter, to sterilize the fat needle you’ve pulled from a rusting tin can of sewing supplies you never use. Your devil lives for the moment when something bursts, tempts you with a vision of clear fluid draining down a dirty arch, with the sound and sensation of scissors cutting a ragged white perimeter around a circle of bright red tender skin. Your devil campaigns for Neosporin, packing gauze, and wrapping tape. Your devil promises relief.
Your devil (bless her heart) confuses the thing that heals with the thing that hurts.
You call upon the angel of curiosity. You are curious about what might happen if you just leave the blister alone. To leave intact the little amniotic sac squatting between hallux and second toe. You know what’s happening there: cells dividing and growing. New connective tissue. New layers. You yearn to trust your body. You are no thief, you remind yourself. You will not steal from your own body. You will not poach your own healing. To not pop this blister is an act of discipline, an act of rebellion, an act of empowerment.
An act of faith.
Every night – a needle, a lighter just an arms-reach away – you practice faith. This is faith for you. Not God, not religion, but a blister on your left foot from a day spent walking among the worshippers of visceral thrills. You pray to the worthy deity of Plasma, the serum that pushes against the borders of your skin. You feel your faith bulging and pinching. You are being reborn between your first and second toe, and you can feel it in each step, the full pressure of your corporeal form rushing toward your second metatarsal head, the weight of your own body meeting the earth.
Currently a student in Miami University’s MFA program, K Anand Gall also holds an MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. K’s work has appeared recently in The Journal and she was a finalist in The Arkansas International C.D. Wright Emerging Poet’s Prize and Midwest Writing Center’s Foster-Stahl Chapbook Series. Find her on Twitter @kanandgall.