I seem to have developed the most annoying habit lately of kicking steps. Sometimes it results in nothing more than a stubbed toe and a little precarious teetering, but just as often it seems to involve sprawling awkwardly about and looking like I’m going through a gangly growth spurt again. I’m not sure if it’s just because my mind wanders and my feet somehow forget that the next step is going to be the exact same distance away as the last one, or if it’s my body trying to speed up the emergence of a mutant second toenail that has been holding a months-long coup as it tries to kick out the one that was there first. (To those of you who have a strangely irrational fear of feet, sorry about that, but it’s been quite the bother being ashamed to wear open-toed shoes.)
It started one school day last week. Marisol and I were walking up the steps that lead out of the train station close to campus, when all of a sudden, I was flailing my arms to avoid landing flat on my face in front of the crowd of other students on their way to class. (Straighten up quickly! Glance around to make sure no one has noticed! Assume an overtly nonchalant air to mask embarrassment….) Again, while walking up the stairs from the basement library behind two classmates, I all of a sudden had to fling out my hand to steady myself as my toe yet again caught the edge of a step, and ended up with my hand on her rear end. (Ah! Sorry! My bad! I don’t understand what’s up with my feet……) I guess I could say that at least all this kicking of steps helped break in my new ballerina flats a little bit faster……
So I started thinking a lot more about lifting my feet as I went up stairs, trying to evade another encounter between my toes and the unforgiving surface of the steps, but it kind of slipped my mind on Saturday morning when Marisol and I were racing through the metro to try to make it to the early train out to Salamanca. We were really close on time, so we were literally running up the escalators, when all of a sudden, my feet forgot again. Yep, I sprawled right there next to a rather surprised woman with a shopping bag who called out “¡Cuidado!” as I somehow scrambled back into the upright position and tried to catch up with Marisol, who was ahead of me. Unfortunately, I kind of pulled something in the side of my foot this time, given the greater than normal speed of the incident. And we were planning on spending the whole day sightseeing in Salamanca! Well, despite our heroic running, we didn’t quite make it in time, so after asking the recommendations of the ticket clerk, we bought tickets to Ávila, the hometown of Saint Teresa and San Jaun de la Cruz. We wander around the station for a little while (well, Marisol walked and I kind of limped), waiting for our train to arrive, and once we got on there, oh it felt good to stretch out my leg and let my foot rest.
To be honest, once we got walking and my ankle got nice and loosened up, the day was pretty good, and I was able to enjoy trekking around the old section of Ávila. It was stiff whenever we got up from any sitting spell though and occasionally rebuked me with slight tinges if I stepped funny, so I tried to take care of it. I took full advantage of handrails as we went up and down the precipitous steps of the city wall and looked out over the city below. (Look at that groovy church over there! Everyone is so little from up here…) I was careful when clambering down into the wild blackberry bushes by the river. (I told you there weren’t any rattlesnakes, Marisol…) I gave it the delightful refreshment of the cool wind when I took off my shoes at the lookout point that gave us a view of nearly all the Old Town. (It’s so pretty! If only there weren’t two giant cranes doing construction in the middle of all those quaint little streets…Hey! I think I see a bride and groom taking wedding pictures on the lawn by the wall!) I rested it in the peaceful quiet of the chapel in Saint Teresa’s church, built on the site of the home where she was raised. (This tour group we happened upon is rather informative, but wait! Shhh. Here comes someone to pray.) I gently stretched it while perusing the museum displays in the sepulchral tunnels underneath the church. (This would be quite nice, but why do the lights keep turning off?!) I gave it a breather for a minute in the exhibit on the Vettons, the Iron-Age inhabitants of the region (They made giant statues of bulls?! Cool!)
By the time we were ready to head, home, I could barely tell that I had strained my foot earlier, and I hadn’t tripped on any more steps that day, so I celebrated with a delightful chocolate-covered churro from a stand that we came across on our way back to the train station. (Mmmm, so good.) I managed to get on the train without hurting myself, and with our feet up on the footrests in front of us, we watched the beautiful skyline as the sun set behind the hills and illuminated the scattered clouds above with brilliant hues of pink and orange. Or, at least, we watched as best we could around the woman in front of the window, a thin, bespectacled lady with a prominent upper lip who was in the middle of destroying her very hammy sandwich.
We arrived home to a slightly confused Señora María, who took a little while to understand that we hadn’t ended up going to Salamanca at all like we had told her. Once we chatted for a little bit though and cleared up the whole mystery, she led us to the kitchen and fed us yet another delicious meal (oh happiness…). Soon enough, I was saying goodnight and putting my foot to bed. Now hopefully I don’t go kicking any more steps any time soon….