Thursday, February 09, 2006

Divorced from Life? Ingrown Toenails and Abba Concerts

I've been unsure about including this one, but occasionally academics do get caught up in everyday life. Here is a recent day.

For a long time I have had an ingrown toenail on my left foot. Most of the time I've endured it with infrequent visits to a podiatrist. The last one I went to said it could be removed permanently. I mulled over the possibility until my toe began to hurt again. I need good feet because I run in the morning and walk my dog amongst other things. I called to book nail surgery and to my disappointment was told I could be done the same day.

At 4pm I was at the podiatrist's watching her prepare the anaesthetic and being asked if I wanted to watch. I did although I couldn't actually watch her insert the needle. The bit after was all right. Ten minutes later my toe was dead. It was pinched and poke--nothing. Then my chair was whizzed up to her eye level and she prodded and cut away. I was unable to draw my eyes away. Finally she burnt out the quick with some acid to prevent regrowth. That was it: half a toenail was better than a hurting full one. By the time the bandaging was finished, my toe looked like a ping pong ball balanced on the end of my foot.

I came to the podiatrist on my bicycle but they wouldn't let me ride home. I had to take a taxi except they didn't know any taxi companies. I went to find one and couldn't, so I rode home. Still the ping pong ball glowed unsullied by any red. As the podiatrist prettily put it: "Oh, good, you're not a bleeder!"

It had also slipped my mind that Eleni had booked us to go to the Hackney Empire that night to see a "Sing-a-Long with Abba" concert. I wasn't too sure if my foot would enjoy this. But since, like many of my male compatriots I pretend to be impervious to pain, I would go. The Marquess of Anglesey is our patron saint. At the Battle of Waterloo he was hit by grape shot in the knee and remarked, "By God, sir, I've lost my leg!" Wellington paused in his survey of the battlefield and glanced over and said, "By God, sir, so you have!" and continued his survey. For me it was only my toenail.

Eleni, Maria (our friend) and I walked to the Hackney Empire for 10 minutes briskly as we were late. My foot took it calmly. At the theatre many people were dressed in blond wigs and shiny suits. If my foot felt poorly, my eyes wouldn't. I bought us drinks and sat at the end of the row where I could stick out my foot. I was beginning to relax.

The concert started and quickly the audience was joining in the songs. Me too. We had goody bags with SOS cards, fake money and more. And although I had never before listened or paid attention to Abba's lyrics, I thought they were rather good--inventive, witty, not the usual pop pap. As an academic I was subconsciously trying to justify being there by analyzing the songs.

Then the audience was commanded to sway, joining hands with one's neighbours. We stood and swayed. I hoped to sit down soon. But my spare hand was grabbed from the other side of the aisle by an unknown woman, who forced me to sway around the aisle. As the song ended I reached for my seat but didn't make it. The next was a very dancy tune and she grabbed me to dance. My foot wanted to discuss if this was a good manoeuvre on my part, or its. I felt I couldn't be impolite and say no, especially as we had just swayed together. I would try to dance mainly on one foot and swing the damaged one out of harm's way. This technique, while effective in almost preserving my foot from harm meant that the dance took on a circular form as we twirled around. My companion, who was pretty, kept up but changed the steps after a while so that we came into closer proximity. I glanced over at Eleni and Maria. Hopeless, they were singing along and were oblivious to me. Still feeling it would be impolite to stop, I continued. She wrapped her arms around me and drew me close. Her hands began to move around my body. At one stage I felt one of them glide its way up my back--under my shirt. Maria looked at me and her eyes widened as she saw how I was. I could see her nudge Eleni who also looked over. I mouthed a silent "Help!" They did nothing. At last the song ended and I eased myself from her grip. Both my toe and chastity intact. Maria and Eleni made me change seats so that I was seated between them. No one would ever be able to break through that fortress: I was safe.

After the concert we came away. I was a turmoil of emotions, pleasure, sensuality, curiousity, puzzlement, and most of all a toe whose anaesthetic had worn off and was throbbing painfully. God, I had to lie down.

1 comment:

johnflood said...

Eleni said on reading this blog, "I didn't know she was pretty." Eleni was huffy. I said it was dark where you were sitting. And in any case, why does it make it worse?