I knew the moment that I opted to pack cous cous instead of shoes would come back to haunt me. I packed my suitcase to return to Madrid under New Year delusion, a chronic illness which infects the masses and coerces them into thinking an arbitrary date will launch them into detoxifying bliss. Oh the irony, because my cous-cous loving just got me toxified.
My parents purchased me some “sensible” shoes at Christmas. Dedicating my childhood efforts to avoiding Clarks at all costs, I tried to be cool in Ravel wedges and the occasional Topshop smarts. Spending years waging war with my mother, I was purchased the shoe I didn’t think existed: sensible, flat, yet work-friendly and attractive. “At least you won’t rip your feet to bits now,” she commented. Enchanted by the gift, I opted to pack two pairs of shoes for my flight back, to the astonishment of my family. “Two pairs of shoes will be fine. What else could I need now I have these?” I added. In retrospect, plasters would be nice. I navigated my thirty minute walk home limping in pain. Taking a detour to find some plasters, I watched my supply wilt as the band-aids saturated with blood every thirty seconds. Ripping off three layers of skin from the backs of my feet as I mopped up the blood stains, I contemplated if wearing slippers to work would be a huge faux pas. Ignoring my limp and light-headedness until the strains of the afternoon, I decided that Spanish septicemia was more fear-inducing than admitting to my idiocy.
“I think I have blood poisoning,” I blurted out to my boss.
“How can you be sure?” my colleague asked.
“Well, you see, I’ve had it twice before. Once when I was fifteen, and once when I was seventeen. I was in Oxford University. At a gifted and talented summer school. The doctor didn’t understand how I’d been invited,” I glumly added.
“TAXI!!!!!!!!” yelled my boss, jolting me into action.
“You are going to a doctor. I’ve just called the cab. Let me know how you get on,” she exclaimed, pushing me out of the door. Given a reimbursement slip, I made my way to a health centre and waved my European health insurance card in the unwitting receptionist’s face.
“Sorry, you cannot be treated here. You need to take a left, a right, a turn, and then do a pirouette with joy if you followed what I said in my ridiculously fast Spanish.”
“I am not moving,” I yelped.
She looked at me with confusion and repeated the instructions.
“No, you don’t understand. I am not moving because I can’t move. I’ve got septicemia,” I woefully added.
Taken to be slathered in anti biotic gel and bandaged up, the doctor looked at me.
“Were they pretty?” she asked.
“Oh they were beautiful. The most beautiful shoes in the world,” I mumbled.