As I rubbed, her feet soaked in the oil thirstily. Almond oil makes a great base, but when using it for massage oil, be prepared to continually pour more on. Even well-moisturized skin will lap it up, which is part of its benefit, as I understand it.
The hint of lavender I’d mixed into the oil suffused the room with its aroma, and it helped in its small way to ease the tension I’d brought into our home months before. Both of us were relaxing a bit, and we were beginning to truly enjoy each other’s presence on a fundamental level.
I worked plenty of oil into her heel, kneading the freshly-scraped skin with firm knuckles. Under the surface, I felt more than heard the subtle cracking of something inside. In my prep work, I’d read something about crystals forming inside the feet from an accumulation of toxins, waste products, and other unpleasant sediment. Some sites indicated that breaking up these crystals allowed them to dislodge, be collected in the bloodstream, and get properly expelled from the body. This process was supposed to sooth and relax the entire body as these crystals stopped pressing on nerve bundles that supposedly fed from the feet into the rest of the body.
I had no idea if all this hippie crystal talk was fact or farce — ever the skeptic, I suspected more of the latter — but each crunch in her heel seemed to melt her further into the chair. So I went with it.
It didn’t matter if they were crystals, gremlins, or the connective tissues holding her feet together. They were going down. They stood between me and reconciliation with my wife.
I became a man on a mission.
I commenced a search and destroy pattern; prodding, testing, feeling, and mercilessly crushing any crunchies I encountered in her lovely foot. I was systematic. I was ruthless. I was not gentle. I had to get this right.
It didn’t matter if they were crystals, gremlins, or the connective tissues holding her foot together; they were going down. In my eyes, they stood between me and reconciliation with my wife. From heel to ball to arch, I left a wake of lavender-scented crunchy destruction, and it was frankly exhausting. But I had to keep going.
I bent, twisted, stretched, and worked her toes, checking for more crackling enemies. I found none. With a lot more delicacy, I checked the top of her foot, but that effort came up empty as well. But there were still more of these evil Rice Krispies in her other foot!
With a renewed sense of urgency, I returned her decrunchified foot to the hot water and began oiling up her other foot. This one took less time, it seemed, but that could have just been because I was tired, my fingers were aching, and I began to panic as I realized that my single-minded crunchicide might not have been all that relaxing. I recalled childhood memories of stepping on Legos and Hot Wheels, focusing weight and pressure on small areas to unpleasant effect. I looked up to watch her face.
Sure enough, she’d begun to wince, though she hid it well.
I placed this second foot back into the bath and returned to the first one. Now, I focused on slow, slight pressure. Soothing movements. Coaxing contentment, maybe even a hint of romance into her. As dates go, I’d rather this be remembered more as a Sleepless in Seattle than a Rambo.
Her breathing became slow and steady. Her eyes closed without the flutter of lashes that marks one of her tells of discomfort, annoyance, or other nuisance. She was genuinely relaxed. And by the time I started on her other foot, I found I was, too.
As usual, I’d been overthinking things. This was about making her comfortable, not marking off a mental checklist or getting everything right or not screwing up or even mass-murdering foot gremlins. It was about pampering her.
By the time I finished rubbing her feet, a thought had occurred to me. I remembered seeing her exquisite reaction to the calf-massaging chairs at Brookstone, Sharper Image, and other similar stores. So, inspired by the memory and the immediate availability of oil, I asked, “Would you like me to rub your calves, too?”
This was about making her comfortable, not marking off a mental checklist or getting everything right or not screwing up or even mass-murdering foot gremlins.
Perhaps it was because I was doing so well with her ankle at the moment I asked. Perhaps she was too relaxed to care. Perhaps it was her birthday gift, and dang it but a calf massage sounded good.
Or perhaps she had a mind clouded by crystalized foot toxins flowing through her bloodstream, and she couldn’t exercise good judgment.
Whatever the reasons, she said yes.
And our lives would never be the same.