I'd bought the shoes for $5 at the Value Village in Vancouver, WA. They were cheerleader tennis shoes, the kind actually worn by cheerleaders. The shoes met two of the important conditions I have for buying used items. They were kitschy and they were cheap. They made the perfect dancing shoe, having no traction left on the sole. I'd clocked many spins on each shoe, told by the holes I'd worn. Though I threw away that pair during my closet cleaning, I kept the three other pairs of dancing shoes I own.
It was strange to come across all my dancing shoes. Over time, living in GradShitTownVille, they've made their way from the front of the closet to the rear. Seeing their dusty bodies, I was reminded of the woman I was. The girl who danced in Portland four nights a week--able to go from Cha Cha, to Salsa, to Lindy Hop without a blink of an eye--is gone. At least, she is hibernating, since GradShitTownVille offers so few opportunities to dance with people who aren't groping, cliquish, assholes.
I found it strange that a pair of shoes could have so powerful an effect on me. I thought of who I was in my previous life, regretting that I had lost who I used to be in a city for which I felt ownership and affinity. I regretted that I no longer have a home to call my own. I am no longer a citizen of Portland, no matter how often I visit, and my disdain for GradShitTownVille keeps me from thinking of it as anything more than a temporary hostel. I often wonder if I'll ever have that feeling of home again. I wonder if I will ever be in a place again that feels like home. Will I find another place that speaks to me in the language of city life, through effective public transportation, healthy air mandates, restored movie houses, mountainous landscapes, or abundance of good beer?
* * *
The second reminder came via the dog. My dog will be eleven years old next month, fairly old for my four-legged pal. On Monday, I took her to the vet due to complications from a knee surgery she had last year. It's both pathetic and endearing how she tries to hop and limp while maintaining her regal appearance. Last night, I heard her wheezing, so we go back to the vet on Thursday. I lament the money I have to spend, having no pet insurance, but I can't imagine doing anything else. She's been with me through three boyfriends, fine needle aspiration, two houses, three cities, three jobs, a rejection letter from University of Washington, and three years of graduate school. I've been with her through a benign tumor, heartworm, knee surgery, and the time she tried to chase a damn tugboat, swimming after it in the Willamette River. She's like the prettier, but less vocal girlfriend that offers unconditional support, except during the occasional electrical storm, when I'm sure she's plotting ways to grow an opposable thumb so that she can stab me in the night for moving to this horrid place.
My dog is my reminder of mortality, for a dog's lifetime nests easily within that of a human being's. During my own life, I've lost two dogs. I witnessed them go from puppy, to adolescent, to old maid. This dog is my first as an adult, without my parents feeding it or paying for the vet bills themselves. As I worry about what will come tomorrow at the vet's, I know that I'm not ready yet to lose her. If anything, she deserves to see me graduate, so that we can get the hell out of here together.