By Kristin Garth
You strip for five years, and no one sees your toes. A topless club, g-strings, the suggestion of skirts, plaid or flared, you wear socks. Knee length, you show the schoolgirl, naughty or nice, for a price, braids with bows; ankle length, cheer-leading clothes, pom-poms, pigtails, you strip down to dimples, diminutive details. Feet stay discreet. Regulars could paint blindfolded watercolor renderings of your areolas and nipples, but they never know the patina of a pedicure or the lack thereof.
This mystery is bigger than a toenail. It is the secret socked shame of a long second toe. Once, you believe, naïve, you are normal—flip flops, second grade, pink Hello Kitty rubber thong blistered furrow of toes offset by sun on skin. It is a rebellious paganism of an evolving heathen atheist hidden in a baby body who Christians control, contain, contaminate in countless ways.
Pants are forbidden. Skin above the knee is sin. Cleavage is the curvaceous costuming of a whore. A naked foot is a fetish beyond the creative puritanism of your particular parents. You indulge in sandalmancy until the second grade. Then within a playground circle of girls, a giggling vicious redhead performs a divination in the flaw of your feet—“It means you will be bigger than your husband.”
You think fat, but she explains it may be taller—or in charge. Staring compulsively now at the toes of the other girls, you see it everywhere suddenly—same shorter second toe. Disfigured, and until this moment, you didn’t even know it.
Then the real content of her message hits you in your fundamentalist-groomed gut: you are to be a woman in charge, and a woman in charge is a woman alone. This prophecy of the second toe is a tragedy. You ball your toes. Hide your despair.
You live in Florida. Summer is the season of the bare foot and the sandal. Toes are neon, pastels, rainbowed, glittered, collaged, flip-flopped, bared and shared. Yours hide, artfully, in cotton ponies and kitties, foot fairy tales cover nightmare loneliness of the long second toe.
At the strip club, you will be known for your socks. Men buy them as souvenirs you sell happily but never remove in front of customers. Dirty traded for clean in a desolate dressing room—bring a dozen the three nights a week you dance.
You hide the toe, peculiarity and prophecy—lengthy contradiction of everything you say you believe in—you believe you are: girl perpetually small seeking a daddy. Seek him but stumble in submissiveness, subvert sanctimonious agendas without knowing why. This tell-tale toe is an omen to a girl educated in the Bible—who understands the danger of a sign. Though you dance for priests and rock stars, you are made from Puritans. You cover the toe because the second grade prophecy is true: you are bigger than these men. You keep its secret. Never show a sole.
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart & Best of the Net nominated sonnet stalker who occasionally in a fever dream or ear infection writes prose. Her prose has stalked magazines like X-R-A-Y Lit, SCAB, Cheap Pop, Rhythm & Bones Lit, Trembling With Fear and Luna Luna Magazine. She has two poetry chapbooks available: Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press). She has two forthcoming: Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019) and Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Lit March 2019). Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press). Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie), her weekly poetry column (https://www.rhythmnbone.com/sonnetarium), and her website (kristingarth.wordpress.com).