He breathed a heavy sigh that signified that he was done. He looked like a spent force. My husband, Chris Cleary: a man of little stamina.
Well, that was not necessarily true. Chris could be quite virile when the situation was to his liking. The only problem was that I hated what Chris liked. His fetish repulsed me.
On that night, Chris rolled on his side of the bed, turned on his side, and started snoring in minutes. No hugs, no kisses, just sleep.
I crept out of the bed and made my way to the bathroom while bouncing on one foot. I placed the other one in the sink and washed away the remaining traces of my husband. Each time the traces got smaller and thinner. I knew why and had already resolved to something about it.
When I first met Chris, I was just twenty-one. I had changed my major too many times to count, and it looked like my future was DOA. Chris, on the other hand, had graduated college in three years and was already working at a suit-and-tie office in Manhattan. I was immediately impressed by his aristocratic bearing, his fine clothes, and his exquisite manners. I was also thoroughly excited by the news that he came from a wealthy Connecticut family that regularly spent summers in the Mediterranean. On our fourth date, Chris took me to Shanghai for five days. I was a smitten gold-digger.
Our courtship was a whirlwind of lavish dinners, airplane rides in first class, and endless night drives in luxury cars manufactured in Europe. We got married at his family’s mansion close to Greenwich. Chris kept his predilection from me during that whole time. He was the epitome of an adequate, if not boring lover.
We were both drunk on red wine one summer night in San Francisco when he broached the subject.
“Don’t laugh, but I want to try something, ok?”
I laughed anyway, but not in a mocking way. I was simply suffering from the drunk girl giggles.
“No more laughing, okay? I really want to do this.”
I said nothing, but let my husband do whatever he wanted. He kissed every inch of my body and slowly moved down towards my feet. I did not get uncomfortable until Chris removed my socks and began unzipping his fly.
“Oh, no way. I’m sorry, but we will not doing that foot fetish stuff. That is out-of-bounds.”
Chris was crestfallen. He must have thought that I was simply turned off by the very idea of foot play (I was and still am), but it was closer to the truth to say that I am very self-conscious of my feet. My hobbit feet, as my godawful mother used to say.
I am a small girl: only five feet even. However, I was cursed with the feet of a Sasquatch. My toes are bigger than most fingers, and have long suffered with unsightly toe jam. It is not pleasant to talk about.
My mother, a corpulent shrew that fortunately died of sudden cardiac arrest when she was only forty-five, made my affliction worse by always reminding me about my mutant feet.
“I wouldn’t buy those white socks, sweetie. You know that they might get warped,” she’d say with barely-contained glee while shopping at Kmart. Sometimes she would deny me ice cream or cookies because she said that sugar would make my foot fungus worse. The truth is that she just wanted to stuff her fat face with more food.
Dad was a nonentity my whole life. I don’t remember much about him, but what I do remember involved my feet. One day, after he picked me up from softball practice, he made a comment about the odor coming from my cleats.
“Good lord, that is awful. What is that?”
When I said “my feet,” he wrinkled his nose and made a joke about cutting them off. I hated him for it.
This personal history kept me from giving into my husband’s fetish for months. He tried to walk me through the process; he plied me with red wine; he even tried to sneak a “quickie” in while I was sleeping. On that occasion, I smacked him. My hand left a bright red welt on his fleshy cheek. The other men at the office made fun of him for days.
“Just once and I’ll never bother you again. I swear.”
It was last winter. Chris and I were snowed in at a ski resort up in New Hampshire. I was in the midst of a black depression because my favorite character from my favorite TV show had just been killed off. I was also four wine glasses deep.
“Alright. Just one time.”
That was all it took. Chris prepared himself and my feet in the blink of an eye. I kept both of my eyes shut throughout the whole ordeal. When he was done, I leapt into the shower and stayed under the warm water for almost an hour. I did not care about offending him; I just wanted to stop feeling so filthy.
We carried on that way for a while. Each time, Chris’s enthusiasm diminished a little. Each time my showers got shorter. One day, Chris and I just stopped being intimate altogether. The coldness ate away at me; Chris never looked happier.
For weeks, I wondered why my husband, who pleaded so long for my feet, now cared so little about them. Even more, I wondered why he no longer lusted after me, and why he no longer left me spending cash on the nightstand. I thought that my past jokes about being treated like a hooker had convinced him to stop depositing green notes next to the lamp. Still, it wasn’t just that. There was an absence in our marriage, and I felt it every minute I was around him.
Two months before our final act of lovemaking, I got an unexpected ping on my cellphone. I was standing by the sink, washing dishes, and pecking at a sandwich while the Today show quietly played behind me. The cell phone message was from Uber, and it said that my driver would be arriving soon. I hadn’t ordered an Uber, and the driver was en route to somewhere that wasn’t our house. Chris must have accidentally used my Uber account. It was not the first time.
But this time, I could clearly see that Chris was not going to work. He was going somewhere downtown, somewhere close to the Village. Holding the cell phone in my one dry hand, I rushed to my laptop and punched in the address. I read on the screen “The Claudia Grey Dance Studio.” The website said that the studio specialized in classical, modern, hip-hop, and jazz dancing. It looked small, and the few photos online showed a utilitarian space made up of red brick walls and large factory windows.
Chris refused to answer my question that night about why he was hanging out at a dance studio. He came home, showed me the back of his hand, and left a couple thousand dollars on the nightstand in an attempt to shut me up. It did not work.
I kept pressing him each afternoon when he came home, and each time he left me more money. I threw half of the hush money in the trash in order to show my displeasure. Chris took to sleeping with me again and engaging in his fetish. These were perfunctory and contained no passion whatsoever.
I convinced myself that Chris was cheating on me. It was the only conclusion that made sense. I saw his mistress as a beautiful ballerina: an Italian girl with olive skin, shapely legs, and beautiful feet. At night, I made plans to confront the woman, but realized that I had no actual proof that he was cheating at all. And even if he was cheating, who was he cheating with?
I resolved to follow Chris to the dance studio one morning. I hailed a tried-and-true yellow cab five minutes after Chris left the house. I paid the taxi driver, an Arab or North African man who smelled like sweat and Marlboro cigarettes, in completely untraceable cash. I walked up the steps of the dance studio, signed in with the attractive blonde at the front desk, and agreed to an impromptu tour led by an awkward, somewhat ugly girl named Cynthia.
Cynthia was a redhead who dyed her hair black. The dye job had been badly botched. It made Cynthia look trashy. Other than her horrible hair, she had a misshapen body, with a solid roll of fat stretching from the bottom of her small breasts to the top of her black yoga pants. The only thing Cynthia had going for her were her gorgeous feet. They were as white as alabaster. They were smooth, with short, but straight toes. Her nails were clean and painted a brilliant shade of blue. As a barefoot Cynthia blathered on about the dance studio, I kept my eyes on her lovely feet. This is his mistress, I thought to myself.
I began taking dance classes at the Claudia Grey Dance Studio. I started out with beginner’s jazz, then moved my way up to classical. That was the course that Cynthia taught. She was not a great teacher. Dancing came naturally to her, thus making it difficult for her to instruct the not-so gifted. None of it mattered to me.
I took the classes for two reasons: to lose some of the weight I had put on since marrying Chris, and to get closer to the woman who I was convinced was his mistress. I lost the weight easily. Chris never noticed, and our lovemaking continued to be uninspiring.
Cynthia proved much easier to woo than my own husband. One night after class, I invited her out for drinks. I picked an upscale bar near the studio. It was a dark, quiet place that served good pasta and wine. Cynthia got easily drunk on cheap white wine.
I found out much about my husband’s mistress: she was only twenty-three, a graduate of NYU, and grew up in a medium-sized city in Delaware. I can’t remember which one. I tried to get Cynthia to talk about her love life, but she brushed me aside.
“There’s nothing to say. It’s nonexistent.”
“C’mon. I don’t believe that. You are too pretty for no action.”
“It’s the truth. I’m on all the dating apps, but so far nothing. Not even a one-night stand.”
Cynthia and I carried on like this one night a week for a month. Finally, one the night before Chris and I made love for the last time, I invited Cynthia over to our apartment.
“This place is gorgeous, Alice. I’m so jealous.”
The comment was more menacing than I intended. I knew that she had been to the apartment before, and I hated what I considered to be her patronizing tone.
“No, I’m serious. This place is great.”
I nodded and handed her a glass of expensive white wine. She drunk it hungrily. I fed her some cheese and imported salami. She consumed these easily as well.
I gave Cynthia a brief tour of the apartment. I let her linger especially long in the bedroom: a bedroom that I knew she knew well. Close to midnight, Cynthia asked to use the bathroom.
“Sure. Go right ahead.”
Chris was spending the night with his parents. His dad had just come out of a coma following a terrible car crash. The time alone allowed me to sneak in the garbage bags, the bleach, and the knives without having to answer any unwanted questions. I brought all of these items out from my hiding place (underneath the sink) and waited by the bathroom door.
“Yes,” Cynthia said with audible hesitation. She seemed uncomfortable with the idea of me standing right outside of the bathroom while she was handling her “business.” She was even more shocked when she opened the door and saw me standing there nude.
I hit Cynthia as hard as I could in the face. She staggered back and hit the back of her head on our porcelain bathtub that we had purchased in France. I picked up her limp body and set it down in the tub. I worked feverishly until the sun rose.
As Chris slept, I dried my soiled foot with his bath towel. I then placed the towel in the garbage and removed a large black bag from underneath the sink. I removed the items from the bag, checked to make sure that they did not smell, then returned to the bedroom.
“Wake up, lover!”
The sudden shouting startled Chris awake. He blinked twice, then instinctively recoiled. His body sought the opposite wall. He was in a full panic.
“Just thought I’d do something nice for you for a change. Now, thanks to your loving wife, you can enjoy your mistress’ feet anytime you want.”
I tossed the bloody stumps of Cynthia’s feet onto the bed. Chris howled in animalistic pain. I laughed in response.
Benjamin Welton is a freelance writer based in Boston. He has been published in Sanitarium, The Atlantic, Thuglit, Social Matter, and other places. His blog is The Trebuchet.