He washed my feet this morning. I was chasing after a dish towel that fell out of my hands as I was shaking it out, crumbs and such all over it, when it loosened from my grip and sailed down the single flight of stairs and, being a thin towel, it started to tumble, edge over edge over edge, until it was against the fence on the southern end of the yard. I had run out barefoot and when I came back in the house, there were faint brown outlines on the pale linoleum where my feet had pressed with each labored step.
I can’t reach my feet anymore, my stomach like a fortress between me and the rest of my body, and so he set down his keys and walked into the bathroom and turned on the bath water before taking my hand and leading me in there, balancing me with one hand while he lifted my left foot into the stream of water. He pressed my left hand against the wall and moved around me, knelt down and washed away the dirt before pressing it down, wet, on the floor mat and repeating the process with my right foot. After setting my right foot on the floor mat, he pulled down, with a single tug, my bath towel and patted my feet dry before kissing both of my shins, those foreign stretches of skin I haven’t seen in weeks without looking in the full length mirror on the back of the closet door.
I almost cried. For the tenderness, sure. But mostly because he may never know the way I betray him, every day, in my heart. The way I dream of leaving, of filling one old suitcase and walking, barefoot if necessary, down the steps and down the drive and then down the street. My exit like the credits of an old movie where the wife pulls off her housecoat and slips on a calf-length camel-colored wool coat and buttons it up, top to bottom, and then lifts the daintiest of tan and brown suitcases and turns her head, sweeping from one side of the room to the other and then back, and then sighs, pushing one foot forward and then the other until all we see is a small silhouette in the middle of a road under the canopy of trees we only ever see in movies anymore, her body but a shifting line in the wide open arch of a suburban road, an image from when suburbs were full of promise-laden light and driveways were lined with perfectly parked, rounded off cars with fins and tail lights and hood ornaments.
I almost cried.