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Not on Purpose Has Purpose

When I first returned from Peace Corps, I bought this pair of tennis shoes with this bright pink. Uncharacteristic of me really. Peace Corps wasn’t the end of my time in Guatemala, and those shoes returned with me, walked its stones, gravel and pavement.


Those shoes walked my dog, Solo. For a time, piece by piece, their treads picked up the trail. I told myself Bones would be a good name for a dog, after the forensic anthropologist. Her team makes sense of memory through the tiniest pieces, the kinds of particulates found in shoe treads.


Solo arrived in the U.S. with his own suitcase. It had two bones. One of them had been carried by me before. At the time, this bone was bigger than his head. His suitcase also held a blanket and several plush toys he adopted from my shelf. And, both shoes. This week, he dug into his basket of toys. I removed items until he indicated which he really wanted. Purpose. The shoe. Recently, my Solo celebrated another anniversary of arriving to the U.S. My aunt remembers to remember. I’m not sure why I forget. Not on purpose? What does he remember?


If I lingered in narrative too long on my own baggage, Solo too had pieces to claim. I carried him and a suitcase of things to Wisconsin. The shoes almost didn’t make the return trip from Israel to Guatemala underneath my sister in law’s confused eye. I couldn’t replace the shoes. They were no longer mine alone. They were ours. So important to him, I named the kittens he loved after his favorite things. “Tapita” and “Shoe.” Now I see past and present in the sway of the gray-pink swing guided by his body’s twist. They blend easily unlike my own experience of feeling caught between middles. He’s happy. He is happiness in a way I’ve never understood.


I placed both shoes on the floor and he selected one. Purpose. He always shows purpose. The paths he chooses. The paths he checks. Solo tilted his head and gripped with his teeth. I recalled photos of him cradling the shoe between his lips inside the makeshift plastic basket, “bed” and near his shoulder in a separate pose. The shoes no longer have the laces but Solo finds a way to make the object swing. Solo redefines purpose, how we value what we do, and, he becomes my purpose, when I can’t find another.


Chunk of heel. Faded pink sole. Despite not being worn in Wisconsin post Guatemala, piece by piece, the shoes left some of themselves behind. Pieces that separate and fall away, take on a life of their own, seeding unhealthy stories. I sighed but could not ignore that the materials were no longer attached to the shoe’s body and were likely harmful if swallowed. Best to maintain the soft worn cloth object, the memory we understand. This shadow of the shoe found its way back to the basket with other toys.


Someday the shoes will meet dirt again. Aside the blanket encircling his body, all the baggage will remain with him, but will it rest for me? What’s left of them with what’s left of him. I will have to remember on purpose. For now, the objects do not encircle, but their meaning cycles around us. On the couch, with his head propped up on the pillow, Solo snores. Not on purpose. He opens his eyes briefly and adjusts his head. Yawns and licks his lips before dipping his nose to nuzzle the pillow again. On purpose. What does he remember to remember? What does he still allow me to forget?


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