This page copyright 1998 The Shrubbery
By Ginger Nance
"Okay, Warren, so I'll see you in two weeks. If you need anything before then, call me, okay?" Warren smiled at Dr. Baker and stood to leave. As much as he liked Dr. Baker, he was always glad when a therapy session was over. At the age of twenty-seven, he seemed to have it all: a nice new Jeep Cherokee, a great job as a broker, and a beautiful girlfriend. No one knew he was in therapy, though, not even his mom. He was too embarrassed to admit his problem to anyone except Dr. Baker.
It all started when he was six years old and was taking swimming classes at the YMCA. The class was lined up at the edge of the pool, sitting and holding the kickboards they were about to use to stay afloat. Jonathan Zarella had started singing "Warren and Laura sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G," and Warren had pushed him so he'd shut up. He hated having to carpool with Laura and Gina--for girls, they were all right, but the other boys teased him endlessly about it. His face turned bright red with anger and embarrassment.
Jonathan shoved Warren back, and he slid on his rear right across the slippery tiles into the water. Warren hadn't been afraid; this was actually his second year of lessons. He was more surprised than anything, and looked up to see where his kickboard had floated to. That was when he saw the most beautiful sight in the world: fourteen sets of toes, wiggling away in the pool. Warren just stared until he realized his lungs felt like they were about to explode and he pushed up through the surface. He didn't even mind that that skinny little dweeb had outdone him in the shoving match, he was too busy staring at Jonathan's toes.
Warren flipped his cell phone open and dialed Rebecca's number. Her voice mail picked up, she had probably already left for lunch. "Hey hon, it's me. Sorry I can't seem to find you, but I wanted to remind you that we're meeting Scott, Christopher, Wendy, and Jennifer for dinner before the play, so make sure you leave in time to drive up here for that. Can't wait to see you." He then called his own voice mail to check for messages, thinking how he couldn't wait until Rebecca actually moved into Charlotte from Gastonia.
"Dammit, dammit, dammit!" Angela stared at her Day Planner. She had completely forgotten that she was supposed to go see Twelfth Night tonight at Blumenthal for her drama class.
"What's the matter? I could hear you in the other room!" Sandi stuck her head in the doorway to Angela's bedroom.
"I can't go see Emaline Falls with you tonight, I've got to go see that stupid play. My writing assignment on it is due day after tomorrow."
"Well shit. That sucks. Now I guess I'll just have to get one of the guys in the band to give me a ride home or something...maybe that hottie bass player Heath...."
"Ha ha. Very funny. You know he's mine. Keep your hands off!" Angela threw a pillow at Sandi, but she ducked just in time to avoid it.
"Sucks to be you, dearie. Have fun."
Angela flopped onto her bed. She had a madly unrealistic crush on this bassist, and his band was finally playing in town again, and instead of getting to drool over him and maybe even talking to him, she had to go see this play. Then she had to write a short paper that compared its techniques to those used in mid twentieth century Brazilian theatre. "Ugh."
"It is the most backwards, hick, podunk town I've ever seen in my life. Everyone here is a criminal or a redneck or both. I can't wait to get away. I'm really looking forward to moving--I don't ever plan on venturing this far outside of the city limits again."
Warren and two colleagues--plus wife and girlfriend--were sitting in Bistro 100 listening to Rebecca elucidate her feelings about Gastonia. He knew that she was miserable there, and that the high school she taught at was horrible, but Warren really wished she wasn't making her personal rant the main topic of dinner conversation. Wendy, Scott's wife, had innocently said something about catching the movie Dangerous Minds on TV the other night and Rebecca had cut in with, "Those kids are angels compared to the gutter rats at my school. These Gastonia kids are impossible. This town doesn't care about education, no wonder they're so backwoods!" and so on and so forth.
He was actually slightly embarrassed, and angry, and to calm himself he watched the feet of everyone walking by, hoping for a glimpse of toes. Unfortunately, all of the women were wearing closed-toe shoes. The rest of the party looked uncomfortable and tried to hide it by carefully studying their food. When they finally separated and he and Rebecca were walking over to Blumenthal, the Performing Arts Center, he had to say something.
"What was that back there? I know you're unhappy and can't wait to move, but did you have to embarrass me like that? You brought down the whole group with your negativity. Jesus, Rebecca, couldn't you have just said that you were unhappy and had found a better job? I don't think Scott wanted your manifesto against the town of Gastonia when he asked why you were moving."
Rebecca pulled her arm away from his and started walking faster. "I don't know what you mean. I was just explaining the situation."
Warren rolled his eyes. He knew that he should probably stop, but he was so frustrated that he didn't know what else to do. "Yes, well, explaining the situation and dominating the conversation with biased, unfounded opinions are two different things. For all you know, one of them is from Gastonia!"
"Oh, please. If they didn't want to know they wouldn't ask...."
Angela had decided that if she had to go out alone and watch Shakespeare, she would at least look good doing it. She had put on her favorite black dress and strappy heels, and pulled her hair up in a loose bun. Damn straight Heath would want me now, she thought.
A couple squeezing their way down the aisle and arguing loudly interrupted her reverie. Unfortunately, they sat down right next to her. A middle-aged couple and their teenaged daughter were on her left, the loud arguing couple was on her right, and then there were about five empty seats separating them from the rest of the aisle on either side. She was trapped.
Angela tried not to eavesdrop, but couldn't help but wonder why the woman was so pissed off about Gastonia, and why the man was so pissed off about the woman being pissed off about Gastonia. As the house lights dimmed, she decided not to worry about it.
The play was actually quite good, but Warren couldn't enjoy it. He was too riled up over this whole fight with Rebecca to pay close attention to the performance. By the way Rebecca was furiously tapping her foot, he figured she wasn't watching either. Finally the lights came up for intermission and he could try to talk to her again.
"Rebecca, c'mon, can't you just see my point and accept it as valid? I don't even care if you agree, just let me know you understand why this really is a big deal."
No response at all. Two can play this game, he thought, and turned to the girl next to him. He didn't look too closely at her when they came into the house, but now he saw that she was cute, and young--probably went to UNCC or Queens. Rebecca was irrationally jealous of younger women.
"So, have you seen this play before? Are you here for a class or something?" He purposely turned away from Rebecca.
The girl had been looking at her program and looked up. "Um...no. And yes. drama. I, uh, have to write a paper."
"Oh, cool. Where do you go to school?"
"I'm not enjoying this at all. See ya." Rebecca stood, put on her coat, and left. Warren felt his ears burning, but decided to pretend as if it was no big deal. He turned back to the other girl.
"I'm Warren, nice to meet you."
She warily returned his handshake. "Angela."
Something sparkly caught Warren's eye as he asked her what kind of drama class she was taking. He inhaled sharply. Angela was wearing strappy, open-toed shoes and her toenails were painted with glittery polish. He stared, trying to also hear what she was saying to him. She had lovely feet. He felt the urge rising within him, and clasped his hands together, fighting it. Remember what Dr. Baker says, he repeated in his head, remember what Dr. Baker says.
Angela was not a happy camper. She had hoped that pretending to read her program would deter any potential conversation from the people around her, but Arguing Guy had started talking anyway. Then Arguing Woman left, and now the family on her left kept glancing over, trying not to be too obvious with their curiosity. It was 9:30. The opening band was probably about to start. She could see Sandi right up front with her Heineken and plastic pants, shoving anyone who tried to take her spot out of the way.
She was jolted back into the theatre, though, as Warren the Arguing Guy grabbed her toes.
"Ooh, what color is this?" he cooed.
What the hell do you mean what color is this?! Angela's eyes were, to borrow her grandmother's phrase, as wide as saucers. She wasn't exactly sure what to do. A strange man had never started fondling her foot in a public place. She decided to act calm. Thank God he let go of her toes.
"Um, it's...silver. Silver Sparkle."
"Oh really?" he grabbed her again. "It looks almost red in this light!"
The family on Angela's left rose in unison. Now it was her, Weird Arguing Foot Fetish guy, and alot of empty seats. She took a deep breath and tried to think of a way to get up and move, too. No, she thought, it would be too obvious. He'd see me move. Dammit....
Bliss. That was what Warren felt when he touched Angela's soft, sparkly toes. He hadn't touched a stranger in over six months. Dr. Baker and his therapy had been working so well, but tonight was different. Warren needed a release from the stress of the Rebecca situation, and it had happened to be sitting right next to him.
He was trying not to reach over and grab her foot again, but it was hard. The feeling he got from feet was better than sex, but not really sexual. He was straight, yet could get the same wonderful effect from grabbing a man's toes. His fetish transcended boundaries. Warren leaned back and smiled. He was oblivious to the panicky look on Angela's face. The house lights dimmed again, and as the play started he thought of how he would apologize to Rebecca in the morning.
Strangely enough, after he grabbed her foot, that Warren guy stopped talking to her. He looked like he might actually be asleep. Angela frowned, but returned her attention to the stage as the performance resumed. This is the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me, she thought, I can't wait to tell Heath at the next show...I'm sure he'll think it's hilarious...maybe he can write a song about me.