This post won a Category Award for Nonfiction over on Molly’s Daily Kiss!
Content notes and warnings: D/s; shoe worship; kinky/sensual (but not nude or explicit) photography; discussions of cancer, surgery, chemo, and cancer side-effects, most prominently lymphedema (Mayo Clinic link). Also mentions of misgendering and gender dysphoria. Also, Crocs.
The fashion rules hate Crocs, and I suppose I understand. They are not sleek or elegant, and they speak of old women gardening and old men fishing. Fashion fears any sign of age, any sign of poverty, any sign of imperfection. You always hated fashion rules, even when you were trying to follow them, but it doesn’t matter. You didn’t really have much choice.
The surgery in 2019 was, we thought, the end of it. It would stop the problems you had, and everything would go back to normal. We were sure of this. But then they told us that in the tissue they removed, there was a mass; the surgery revealed and killed your cancer, but they knew it could spread. So they took the lymph nodes, too—prone to cancer as they can be. And then you started chemo.
(And, in all of this, I started a blog. I’m still not sure why I took on such a project when we were dealing with so much, but I did. I wanted to celebrate us, I suppose, when I was afraid. I wanted to reassure us both that you were my dominant even through all of this. I wanted a distraction, I think, above all. And here it is, still, a living testament to us and what we are.)
The chemo was, we thought, the end of it. Every few weeks, we went to the cancer center, and you sat in a chair and read, and Metamour sat in a chair on his phone, and I sat in a chair, and we all listened to the other conversations, or had some ourselves. I fetched snacks and made you laugh. It was my service to you.
Do you remember the bag we got from the local “women’s” cancer support group? A pink hat for breast cancer (which you didn’t have) and a Bible verse about how God still thinks you’re pretty (a god you don’t worship) and about what a strong “woman” you were (even though you aren’t)? I think we still have the hat. We might still have the bag. We laughed about it, because the prognosis was good—the mass itself was gone, after all, this was to prevent further issues—and it was a relief, in a way, that misgendering was our biggest annoyance.
After your last chemo treatment, we went in to see your doctor. Everything was fine, you said. You felt good, your hair was starting to grow back. Only one thing—your ankle wouldn’t stop swelling. It was the ankle you hurt in high school, you said, it’s always been finicky, and everyone knows chemo does weird things.
“Oh,” said the doctor, “you’ll need to see the physical therapist.” But that, surely, finally, would be the end of it.
No one really warned you about lymphedema. Even reading about your cancer treatments, it didn’t really come up. It’s mentioned most in breast cancer literature, affecting the arms, and that’s important, but that’s not what you had.
I think you always liked your legs best, out of all your features. Those pin-up legs, curvy with trim ankles. They were beautiful. They are still beautiful. You walk and run and dance, and sometimes you trip over the cat, and sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they swell, now, and only rarely are they the trim and curvy legs you started out with. I love your legs.
The word “cancer” is ferocious and mysterious, like an ancient curse. We know people die. We know people recover. It seems like those are the options. Sometimes it comes back, but it’s always the cancer. Side effects were presented as temporary—chemo exhaustion, nausea, hair loss.
The PT told you to buy some compression socks, and that you would need new shoes, and to watch your exercise, but make sure to get some. And you were blindsided. No one had warned you about this.
The care sheet for lymphedema was cold and sterile, with smudges of ink and a neutral Courier-type font. It wasn’t the physical therapist who told you, you know, that it would last forever; it was the care sheet that he gave you at the end of the appointment. And you cannot question a sheet of paper, you cannot ask it to tell you if it’s serious or if this is some kind of joke.
The facts of lymphedema are not important—what it is, how it’s caused.
What was important was what you had to change.
No more are you allowed to walk barefoot on the beach. You aren’t supposed to go without compression socks. You’re supposed to pump your legs twice a day, lotion twice a day. And you can no longer wear shoes with any sort of style, it seems.
You had to give up those holographic creepers, your cowboy boots, the pumps you had collected. No more leather for you. You have never liked being told what to wear, what to do. And you have never liked having options taken away.
You know what’s funny? I never had a foot fetish, or a shoe fetish. Feet are neutral. Shoes are neutral. If I wanted to kiss your boots, it was because they were your boots. The shoes I bought you sometimes were because they made you happy, because I love surprising you, because I love watching you light up when you wear something that makes you feel like you. You are nonbinary, and you’ve always been unsure how to present yourself, how to be. When something clicked, it was like the sun coming out.
When I wanted to kiss your boots, it was because I was kissing something that said something. It spoke of your dominance. It spoke of your gender, as you were learning it. It spoke of your style, your joy. And now, without those shoe options, those messages were gone.
The shoe store had plenty of Crocs, and for the first time since your diagnosis, you had fun looking at shoes you could actually wear.
“They’re comfortable,” you said, with some delight.
With the treatments, your ankles and feet were less prone to swelling, mostly, unless something set them off: a bug bite, walking too long, weather. But shoes still often hurt your feet. These did not. You could decorate them. All the colors were available to you, but you went with sensible ones—not because you were looking for sensibility, but so you could pile jibbitz onto them. They excited you, more than the shoes did.
Your body was not under your control, even your shoe choices were not under control, but by God, you were going to decorate your feet, and make them yours again, in some way. You made them a sign of yourself, whatever that self might be. Just as you’d done before.
It’s been two years since chemo ended. Sometimes it feels like all of that was centuries ago, or like it happened to someone else, some other polycule, some other D/s pair. Sometimes, it’s still too recent. Sometimes I wake in a cold sweat, and I listen for your breathing in the bed next to me. I don’t wake you, though you tell me sometimes that I should. But all I want is to hear that you’re there, with me and well.
When people disparage Crocs online, sometimes I take it personally. They don’t know how much went into the purchase of your first ones, after all. They don’t know how afraid we were. They don’t know about the crowded cancer center, and the smell of the chemo room, and HGTV blaring in waiting rooms. They don’t know about the insurance mix-ups and the way the PT never remembered your name. They just know that fashion doesn’t like Crocs.
And so, now, I bend, and I worship your Crocs. And it is not because of the silly plastic shoe. It’s because this silly plastic shoe keeps the demons at bay. It is a little thing that keeps you safe, among all the other things you do that keep you safe, and free of harm.
I love these Crocs, because they are yours. Because you wear them, in all your glorious strength. Because they tell a story of what you have defeated, and what you continue to fight. Because maybe these shoes are a talisman against harm. Because you have made them yours, because you have fought to see yourself in them, to see yourself at all. You are my dominant, and my beloved, and my best friend. And I cannot separate these shoes from you, and who you are.
Show me a thousand custom leather heels. Not one of them can match the power I see in your Crocs.
Moments from Earth is my series of personal non-fiction concerning my life on this strange little planet. Read more Moments | Support Queer Earthling
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This post is not sponsored or even remotely affiliated with Crocs™. The shoes were purchased with our own money, and used/named for illustrative purposes.
Also this post sort of started as a joke with Izzy @ Dildoodler, and would never have been written without their prompting. Thanks!