My "neighbors" included carabaos rolling over in mud
And a swampish area overflowing with "kangkong" (also known as swamp cabbage or water spinach) .
The unpaved and dusty road leading to our core housing unit was my playground
Like any young kid on the block, I would explore the world barefoot ...
Slippers were a luxury and were reserved for special occasions,
Or for those moments when my parents would suddenly remember proper etiquette
I grew up feeling comfortable with moving around barefooot.
As life progressed into the realm of wooden floors, vinyl tiles, marble , and wall to wall carpets - I would find myself instinctively walking around barefoot at least in the privacy of my home ...
That is until a cathartic event -the memory of which I recall today.
We were in Baguio
Me, my son and wifey ...
The weather was great
I was walking around in a room we had rented for the weekend
The wooden floor was nice and cool
My bare feet were sliding along comfortably
Suddenly - my vision blurred
A pain shot through my entire right foot and up into my leg
My eyes poured out a bucket of tears
And a howl escaped from my lips
My bare feet had walked straight into the legs of a narra table
Narra ( Pterocarpus indicus) is the national tree of the Philippines
It is considered one of the hardest of hardwoods
One can imagine that on a cold day - a narra table can be one of the hardest obstacles a foot can run into
And when it happened - the laws of physics determined which was to give way -my foot or the narra table
The outcome was predictable
As my howl of pain subsided, I could see the little pinkie toe of my right foot at a horrendous angle in relation to the rest of my foot
If it weren't so painful - it would be funny
True enough, my loving son and my caring wifey who did not feel an iota of the pain broke out in irrepressible laughter at the sight of my little pinkie
For a while, even I , thought that it was funny
But the pain ... ohhhh the pain would bring me back to my senses
That was not the end of it ...
Instinctively wanting an end to the anomaly, having had some experience as a boy scout ,and having seen enough movies
I resolved to correct the situation immediately and by myself ...
I took a face towel, rolled it, and bit into it - ready to take the suffering like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible or Matt Damon in Bourne Ultimatum
Deep, deep breath ....
Took hold of the pinkie
Closed my eyes
And jerked it back into place
I opened my eyes
I was still alive
The two laughing hyenas had frozen in their tracks
Their eyeballs close to popping out in disbelief
Suddenly they were concerned ...
Moving rapidly to hand me some gauze and plaster bandage strips to further immobilize the pinkie against the toe next to it
I winked at them both
Took the remote control and changed the TV channel as if nothing had happened
I was Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Mat Damon put together
I felt victorious
My manhood was validated
I smiled as another tear of pain rolled down my cheek ...
It was a night we all will not forget
Today - I walk around at home in a pair of Crocs
It's a lifestyle shift
Significant and groundbreaking (at least for me)
But the change is for the better ...
I refuse to stub my toe like that again
Been there - done that
Robert Gary Lee