Sweaty Feet MAG

December 10, 2010
By Michael Rothbaum BRONZE, New City, New York
Michael Rothbaum BRONZE, New City, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Sweaty feet rove the dusty alleys, moving my body to the rhythm in the street. It's a symphony for the senses – vibrant fabrics, the distinct aroma of incense rising, fly-covered fruit, hagglers' shouts, and a bustling energy that only the market can provide. The muezzin begins his call to prayer, as greetings and blessings pass by my ears. “Wa-laykum Salaam,” I respond, the language rolling off my tongue, and I know that if I am ever at a loss, I have learned to speak in smiles.

If you were to ask me in this moment how I feel, how I am, I would tell you in two simple Wolof words, “mangi fi.” They mean, “I am fine,” though directly translate to “I am here,” but I hardly see a distinction. I am here, alive, nestled in the warm embrace of West Africa. In this moment I carry confidence, adventure, opportunity, independence. I can feel the country as I engage with its people, absorb its culture, and immerse myself in the present. Of course I am fine – in fact I might even be a bit better than that. Enveloped in awe of where I currently stand, my eyes gaze down at those feet.

In worn New Balance sneakers, I once dragged my heels over the rocky slope of Mount Washington. Each breath I drew seemed more of a pant and each movement I made was accompanied by a strong burning in my calves. As a child, driven academically yet failing to grasp any degree of athleticism, I was not destined to run the lengths of football fields or swing the bat and bring myself home, but the time had arrived when I would succeed physically and push myself through the canopy of pines to bathe in sunlight and touch the clouds. What my mind had pronounced impossible, my body defied, conquering both my doubt and the 6,000 feet to the summit. On that day my feet taught me perseverance and called on me to recognize the strength I possess within.

Those are the feet that shuffled through the door, with trousers draped around my ankles, to a stage set for song, dance, and farce. “Cross right, head down, pause, turn left”; my legs knew the routine, but it was the audience I had to keep on its toes. I felt my belonging there, in the theater where creativity flowed, as surely as I felt the hard wood set beneath me. Under the lights, I was free to release all inhibitions, to let my feet guide me, to pour myself into the thrill of the role and to shine. Each step taught me to believe in myself, inspiring me with self-confidence and comfort in my own skin. My pride swelled along with the applause, until I could no longer contain a smile; I bowed.

And those feet were laced up in the thick black boots of an EMT that morning, their soles pounding the pavement as they dashed from the back of the “rig.” It was a race against time and the patient's rapid loss of brain function. He was at his worst; my responsibility was to be at my best. I hastened between the patient and our equipment, each action instinctive, adrenaline moving me. Reality had become a blur and the meticulousness of my training faded, so my feet took over. They carried me through, fortifying my sense of purpose as they taught me compassion and a moral duty to serve others in need.

For now, my sweaty feet wander out of the sun and into a small rice shack, where I sip spicy cafe touba and slide my hand into lunch, the oil rolling from my fingertips. Those feet are nearing the end of this journey in Senegal, having trekked across the bush of the Fulani region, stomped the ground in traditional dance circles, and sunk into the golden sand of Sufi darahs. But they will continue to take me through this life.

In time, I will stride down long hospital hallways to perform my first neurosurgery; I will tiptoe into my children's rooms to whisper good night; I will walk a path of teranga, always giving of myself, and of zikr, acknowledging the beauty around me. I currently stand on this precipice in life and am ready to hit the ground running toward the promise of my future, while always marching to the beat of my own drum. Yes, my feet will travel beneath me, and they will leave their imprint on this earth.

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This article has 2 comments.

SarahBeth13 said...
on Jan. 5 2011 at 8:11 pm
I really liked this! Kinda wish I saw it a few weeks ago when I was still working on my apps... it's really inspirational

AJ051393 said...
on Jan. 5 2011 at 8:03 pm
Wow! This is really good! I loved it! It's very touching and the lyrical and vivid writing style makes it both personal and captivating. You should be proud! I'm sure you'll get in somewhere great!


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