68. A Cure for Cold Feet

68. A Cure for Cold Feet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

A Cure for Cold Feet

Winter finals were over, and the entire campus was ecstatic with relief. No more cramming, caffeine highs, tension headaches and cramped desks. We were free! We left campus en masse in the unusually crisp Seattle night, light on our feet, letting our hair down and our shirttails out. We were all going to the local dance club, the only place in the area that could accommodate a few hundred post-finals students who were ready to let loose. We squeezed ourselves into tight jeans and miniskirts, exposed some legs and bellies, and virtually wriggled with excitement. The music was loud and provocative, the figures on the dance floor sensuous, wild. The electricity was heart-stopping.

I looked pretty heart-stopping myself, poured into a barebacked white satin pantsuit with three-inch heels and a rose in my hair. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my date’s heart that was stopping. It was mine. More specifically, it was being bored to death. My date was Dumbe, a native of Cameroon, West Africa. Granted, it was our first date, so I hadn’t really known anything about him, but I had thought we would at least enjoy the rhythm on the dance floor.

Multicolored strobe lights flashed over the table in our booth, and we had to yell to make conversation over the DJ’s voice. I was bobbing and swaying to the music, frantic to get out on the dance floor — and Dumbe was telling me about his plans for the next few days: going to the bookstore to get a head start on his reading for next semester. I began to think maybe this wasn’t going to work.

“It’s important to get the majority of your science classes out of the way before you go on to the university,” Dumbe yelled over the thumping on the dance floor.

It’s important for me to get out of here, I thought. By now it was midnight, and even the shy kids who didn’t know how to dance had finally jumped out on the dance floor. Dumbe and I were still talking about college credits.

“Let’s go,” I called out. Dumbe looked surprised.

“Are you sure you want to leave?”

Apparently, the look on my face was answer enough. This was definitely not working.

Dumbe politely drew open the door to the dance club and let me out. To our surprise, a three-inch blanket of snow had fallen, and our ears buzzed from the sudden change from the noise of the club as we stepped out into a soft, quiet wonderland.

It was beautiful. It was cold. And I was wearing three-inch heels with thin stockings.

The winter weather had caught the city by surprise; no buses or cabs were running. Dumbe didn’t have a car, so with an exasperated sigh, I pointed the way home and we started our slippery trek through the streets. Dumbe shoved his hands deep into his pockets to keep them warm. I, in my bare-backed suit and flimsy heels, looked like the snow queen within fifteen minutes. I stumbled, and Dumbe reached to catch me.

“This, too, is not working,” I said, laughing at the fiasco.

Dumbe looked up and saw a tiny restaurant that was still open. A rush of warmth blew at us when we opened the door. The customers were huddled close together, talking in hushed tones that matched the weather outside.

Dumbe ordered two hot chocolates, and we sat down. Ah, now we can talk a little more about scholarly habits, I thought morosely. I looked ridiculous in my outfit, and I was still frozen solid. Dumbe, however, didn’t start any conversation this time. He watched me swallow a few, steamy sips, and then asked me to take off my heels.

I did, puzzled. He pulled his chair up close to mine, lifted my blue feet into his lap, and gently began to rub them between his hands, easing away the numbness and ache of the cold. I watched him, speechless.

“There, that should feel better,” he said. He looked into my eyes and didn’t say a word about classes or books. “You look beautiful,” he said.

I smiled, and flushed a little, pulling away.

“Wait a minute,” Dumbe said. He threw some napkins on the floor, then gently set my feet down on them. He slipped off his own boots, and took off his thick, warm socks. They were still dry.

He slipped the socks onto my own feet, then stood up and draped his sports jacket over my shoulders. The look he gave me when he smiled thawed me from the inside out.

“Come on,” he said, turning to leave. “Hop up on my back. I’ll give you a ride, and you can keep those pretty feet of yours dry.”

I was so stunned I did what he said, and we stumbled our way up the four or five hills back to my dorm. By the time we got there, we were both laughing, talking freely about ourselves. I had completely forgotten about the dance. All I could think about was how gentle Dumbe was, yet strong, how quiet he was, yet full of dreams.

Before Dumbe left me in the lobby of my building, I reached down to return his socks.

“No,” Dumbe said. “I’d feel a lot warmer knowing they were still on your feet.”

He gave me a hug, waved goodbye, and moved slowly down the street. I stood there in his socks, virtually pulsating warmth, watching him till he was out of sight.

It’s a routine we’ve kept for eighteen years now, Dumbe and I. That first night was four college degrees ago for the two of us, but no matter where my husband, Dumbe, is going, I follow him to the door, hug him, and stand there in his socks, watching him move down the street till he’s out of sight. It warms me down to my toes.


~Pamela Elessa
Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul

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