When I was young, I would twist my left knee up and sideways until it was level with the bottom of my ribcage, bend my head until I could get eye-level with the dark splotch that marked my sole. As I grew, it faded and I forgot that I was ever marked on the arch, the dark keystone.

When I was young, I would step in the puddles and leave my imprint all over my grandparents’ porch, the great sweep of emptiness where my body pulled away from the earth, the small space where all my weight was.

Every so often, I would remember my mark like you remember dreams, sharp flash of clarity that fades too quickly. I would mourn the birth right I lost with time and too much walking on gravel and grass sans shoes, and forget again. Nowadays, I can only sleep when one instep nestles in the arch of the other, where the memory of the mark lingers.

Shoved in cleats, skates, splinter shock, can’t sleep without socks. Ripped tights, holes in the toes of grimy knee-highs. The shame of having them out in the open, too big, size nine, then ten, eleven.

At least you won’t sink in the swamp, said my mother.

Rubbing the backs of my heels, stretching where Achilles’ mother held him in the river to make him strong, where I was weak. Rolled ankles, swollen toes, tight calves. The odd protuberance in the back, rough and bony.

Sometime the summer before sophomore year, I needed a credit and decided to take modern dance. Bare feet and rolling on the floor, shirts lifting and spandex stretching, somehow my feet didn’t seem the most embarrassing thing anymore. They seemed to remember, more than I did, how cherished they once were. They lifted me when the rest of my body could not.

A few days ago, a friend saw me wrestle off my socks.

Of course you play hockey, look at your feet.

Of course. I have new marks on me now. Every knob and bump the mark of where I learned to walk on water, albeit frozen. Where I was formed by what I chose to do. Not what I was born with, but what I earned. Years and years of late-night practices, waking in the dark, sweat.

The bend, the bone, the tight, the tendon.

They mark me.

© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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