Greetings, feet. Look at you, dangling off the end of the bed like that. Long toes. Sandal tan. Badly-painted toenails.
How many miles have you walked in your life? Many. Many-many.
You were just feet when she was a child, and she didn’t think about you. Pedaling her bike, pushing against the bark of the tree when she climbed into her treehouse, dangling above the floor until her legs were long enough. Running in the dusk when she and the others played tag or hide and seek or sardines. Catching fireflies.
Then came the years of days and nights when she started out walking and just kept on. Up the steep hills of the city in which she once lived. Down that dirt road in the Green Mountains. Around the alleys and side streets of Taipei, where it was so easy to get lost.
She walked herself out of places, and messes, and states of being. She walked herself from one life into another life, and then another. She walked herself away from things she wanted rid of. She wished she could walk away from her head, sometimes – more than sometimes – but walking was as close as she could come.
Miles and miles along rivers, and oceans, along continents that once were covered with seas. Once, a woman came up to her as she walked along the low tide line. “You are the most intent walker I have ever seen,” she said.
But the intention was unintentional. She was walking away from what she could, walking her way into the calm that, for her, only comes from walking.
For fifteen years now she has watched a man walk the city she lives in. Once, a decade ago, she passed him as he sat on a bench by the lake with his hands on his knees. Apart from that, he walks, and so far as she knows, he does not ever stop.
In the last three years he has grown gray and gaunt, and his legs have bowed. He was once a handsome man, and now she thinks of him as he is in winter, with the dusty parka and no mittens.
Where does he go at night? She doesn’t know. She hopes that there are some quiet hours for him.
There were years in there when she couldn’t sleep, and when those she loved were not with her, and she clipped the leash to the dog and walked the lakes at 4 a.m. Others were out then too. Could they not sleep either? Were they coming off the late shift? Rising early, or about to go to bed?
And here you are, feet. Look at you. Do you hurt? You hurt. No matter what kind of shoes she puts on you, they are never just the right shoes. No matter how she vows to keep your toes painted, she doesn’t.
Chipped and calloused and aching, still you walk on. She never has to tell you what to do or how to do it. You just know, and what you know is to keep on walking.