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A Thesaurus

Kaleena Madruga




  1. the back part of the human foot below the ankle.

  2. the part of the palm of the hand next to the wrist.
    "he rubbed the heel of his hand against the window"


  1. fit or renew a heel on (a shoe or boot).

  2. (of a dog) follow closely behind its owner.
    "these dogs are born with the instinctive urge to heel"


  1. a command to a dog to walk close behind its owner. 

heel is sometimes confused with heal and he’ll 

My feet will be an area of concern for as long as I am alive. I’ve played it down, I’ve buried it. I don’t want to be the woman whose feet hurt. I don’t want to be the girl who complains about the long walk. There are always treatments but there is no cure. Can I have the surgery, I ask my doctor. I work from home, it’s easy for me to be off my feet, to recover. You should only opt for surgery when absolutely necessary, he says. How much pain is absolutely necessary? At what level of discomfort am I to reach before I say I can’t do it anymore, cut me open? Put me under. Split me open. Fix me. Make it better.

My boyfriend says he’s never seen me in heels, he wants to see me in heels. I can’t wait for the wedding, he says. To see you dressed up. My pain places me at a table, cringing, aching, unable to dance. Why can’t you be more fun? Is it really that bad? I never get to see you in heels.

There is a picture of me when I was young, the grass is green and bright. I’m walking for the first time, I am on the move. My father is behind me, young, smiling. His arms reach out for support, just in case—just in case I’m not ready. Every time I return to the place where the photo was taken, I share, this is where I learned to walk. I am holding the photograph in my hands. Dad was with me when I learned how to walk, I say. So was I, my mom snaps. Who do you think took the picture? She scowls. 





  1. (of a person or treatment) cause (a wound, injury, or person) to become sound or healthy again.
    "his concern is to heal sick people"

  2. become sound or healthy again.
    "he would have to wait until his knee had healed" 

  3. alleviate (a person's distress or anguish).
    "time can heal the pain of grief" 

heal is sometimes confused with heel and he’ll

My father would occasionally have a sore on his mouth, either from the sun or the virus. It wasn’t long before my brother and I were soon affected too. There isn’t much you can do to hide your mouth from the world, and while I am humiliated and uncomfortable when a sore arises, I am mostly in pain. A tingling sensation occurs on my lips, alerting me to a cold sore yet to come. I will hold a piece of ice wrapped in a paper towel directly against the warm spot, praying I can reverse what has already begun. Within a few hours, a red, aching welt has developed beneath the thin skin of my lip. I coat my mouth with waxy medications to shrink the size and alleviate the pain. The goal of the medication is to keep the sore from getting bigger and then for it to turn into a blister. While the blister is arguably the worst part of the process aesthetically, it does mean that you’re healing.

I am typically sent to school in shorts and t-shirts. I first notice the red splotches on my legs while sitting at my desk. It is hot out, and I don’t think much of it. But by the following morning, my legs seem to be decorated by red spiderwebs, lacy and intricate. They don’t itch or burn much, but they are abnormal. I am abnormal. Again I am sent to school in the sweltering heat and told to sit alone at the back desk in case what I have is contagious. Kids turn around and stare, pointing, wondering what is wrong with me. At recess I try to explain that it is just a rash, but they are too nervous to let me sit or play nearby. In truth I find the rash to be pretty, like I am wearing special red stockings designed just for me. A week later I am allowed to return to my assigned seat, but the rest of the kids maintain a safe distance just in case the rash comes back.

A new set of towels in my bathroom was thought to have originally caused the itchy, painful blisters covering my legs, but after changing detergents, fabric softeners, sheets, body wash, and soaps without any significant developments, a doctor ruled the condition as most likely eczema. Eventually the patches of dry, red skin began to surround my mouth and coat my limbs. Unpleasant to look at and likewise painful, my skin and face are again covered in waxy treatments that don’t accomplish much. Areas of dry skin turn to dryer, larger patches on the neck and thighs. My doctor shrugs and says maybe strawberries could be the culprit, then continues to administer cortisone injections over the next few years with no detectable results. Pool parties, beach trips, and potential dates are avoided.

Initially the uncomfortable patches that decorate my arms, legs, chest, shoulders, and stomach are dismissed as an eczema flare up. I am being attacked by fire ants, this does not feel like eczema. After months of holistic treatments that seemed to have an adverse effect, a trip to the doctor results in a diagnosis of moderate plaque psoriasis. I am instructed to try to lower my stress levels. During warm weather, my skin is hotter, the scabs are worse. Colder weather makes the psoriasis look blotchy, like scars or birthmarks. Stress and sadness make everything more red and more hot. 

I often think about the possibility of my outward appearance representing my inner self. The desire to fit in, the continued discomfort. How do you convince people that your pain isn’t contagious? Did my skin conditions cause my stress or did my stress cause my skin conditions? Can I blame my parents: my father, the carrier of the first virus and a long-time avoider of therapy, or my mother, who has perfect skin? Why weren’t her genes stronger? Can I blame the doctors for being too busy to ask more questions, try harder? Should I be angrier about their shrugs and their maybes? When I’m taking my third shower of the day or coating my legs for the fifth time with a topical cream, I consider the child: the one who longed to be held, who wanted to feel soft, who pleaded with her peers for company. I’m not contagious, you can’t catch it. Not dissimilar to the scabs and patches that coat my body (attempting to protect or destroy, I don’t know) my personality has grown scales. It’s rougher and it’s harder to penetrate. Eventually we get sick of defending ourselves, of trying to fit in, feel normal. I’m so tired of trying to convince people what I have isn’t contagious; it’s barely even mine.





  1. he shall; he will. 

he'll is sometimes confused with heal and heel

He’ll is sometimes confused with heal and heel. 

He shall; he will. 

He shall; he will. 

He shall; he will.

About the Author

Kaleena Madruga is a writer and editor living in Chicago. She received her Master's Degree in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University.

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