No One's Boot

I lived in this tiny apartment
with a shower made out of a slab of cement
and bedsheets hanging from a rod.
I was starting university.
My parents were relieved.
I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels
and fed myself on ten dollars a week.
I had a cat I was afraid of
because he attacked people's eyes.
I took medication that turned my urine green,
my chest hollow, and my hands cold.

I read and re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude.
My bare walls were populated with yellow and blue bits of paper
that organized my thoughts around acculturation.
I stuck short strips of transparent tape to each of my left fingertips
to be ready for the next bit of paper.
I dreamt about the slow march of banana groves
and read essays by Mircea Eliade.

My apartment was filled with basement and dumpster salvage,
and I looked around at it all one day
and knew that when I moved in the spring
almost none of these things would come with me.
They were still garbage in my apartment.
My bed was a construction of plastic milk crates and flattened cardboard
topped by a slab of pink foam I had dragged in from an alley.

One day,
I fell through the bedsheet shower curtain and gashed my leg.
The gash kept bleeding and bleeding while I was out,
and, when I looked down,
it became clear that it wasn't my boot on my foot anymore.
I was filling someone else's boot with my blood,
and they didn't care if I did.
It had become no one's boot.

I showed my friend how strange it looked,
the blood seeming black as it congealed in my sock,
and she shuffled me home.
Stop laughing, she said,
because I was laughing now
while my foot made kissing noises in the muck in no one's boot.

She cleaned my leg and fed me aspirin while I lay on the bed ,
and I traced the milk crate waffle pattern with my shoulderblades.
Does it hurt? she asked.
Nothing felt like anything anywhere, so I shook my head no.
You have a fever, she said,
and I fell asleep and dreamt that my leg was a dead leg,
and that the blood drying in no one's boot was no longer mine.

Grace in Small Things: Sunday Edition #93

If You Don't Love This Cat, You Have No Heart