These shoes are meant for walking

“Space aliens snatch humans, leave shoes behind.”

The latest Enquirer headline? No, an actual phenomenon I can no longer ignore.

Yesterday I spotted another pair –– two brand new athletic shoes at the side of a busy road, one slightly in front of the other, as if in the process of walking the owner had been beamed up. I’ve only sighted athletic shoes. Perhaps there are other species. Where do they come from? Why does no one reclaim them?

When I was little, I’d come limping home minus one shoe, the other lost in some muck. My mother would wave the shoe fortunate enough to have made it back home in my face and yell, ‘’Shoes cost plenty! We’re not cobblers!” If a shoe was dropped out a car window during one of our family’s endless cross-country trips, my poor dad would have to backtrack, no matter how many miles, in an effort to rediscover that shoe.

What kind of reaction were these people getting at home –– the ones with both expensive shoes sitting on the divider line of the highway? I’ve even seen a pair hanging over a telephone wire!

So, what’s the deal with the abandoned-shoe syndrome? Aliens are the only plausible explanation. The shoes are not being picked up due to a radioactive field. Or are they in a dimension invisible to humans? Wait! If that’s the case, why can I see them?

There is another explanation, the one I fear is true and don’t want to face. My subconscious is planting these shoes as a subtle hint to get back out there, strap on my dust-collecting walking shoes and walk, damn it.

Last year I was off to a great start after reading an ad titled “It’s easy when you walk it off.” I was dazzled by what promised to be a quick fix. It was something I could do every day, eat whatever I wanted and do no further exercise. Walk –– the answer to all my anguish in one slim, efficient word.

“Let’s go, mom. I’ll help you find a good pair of running shoes,” said my eager, health-conscious daughter. “Walking. I only want to walk, not run.”

This reeked of serious commitment, way beyond my usual quick-fix fad diets and aerobics. Off we went to buy my shoes. I would march forth into a superb young physique. Two walks and I came down with Goldilocks Syndrome. The athletic club track proved too high, too narrow, the mall too open, too populated. But then, what were a little acrophobia, agoraphobia and demophobia compared to dodging would-be rapists, Rotweilers and speeding cars?

A few months later we vacationed in Europe. Relatives made sure I logged in enough frequent-walker miles to last a lifetime. Back home, I retired my Nikes and drove everywhere.

I hadn’t seen any shoes in a while, but then, on a bright afternoon, there they were –– a pair of gorgeous white shoes. Athletic, of course. I tucked my car into the garage, dug out my neglected pair and went for a stroll.

Cars whizzed by. Wood smoke choked me and made my eyes water. I pressed on, confident the shoe sightings would disappear if ... I ... just ... keep ... walking.

Julia Cousineau works in Federal Way and lives in Tacoma.

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