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Salam, friend!

When you opened that box, I was blinded by the light bulb shining right at me, but what really captivated me was your face. Your sheer joy and accompanying smile were like nothing I had seen before, not that I had seen much other than storage, a bag and a long trip across the sea. This whole time I had sat in the comfort of the paper wrapped around me, waiting for that moment when I will be free to escape the confines of my temporary shelter. I had always dreamt about the streets and the freedom of experiencing them one step at a time.

From that very first gentle step we took together on that beautiful carpet full of red flowers, I thought you were the one. I thought we would be best friends walking each other from home to school, mosque to Bazaar, and sadness to happiness, and I even dreamt of one day looking back on our journey together with satisfaction. Maybe one day I will be rewarded with a rebirth into a different shape and a better life, my final act of service toward you being traded in exchange for spinach and mint leafs on your doorstep.

My eyes were fixed on the clock; it was 12:15 PM, later than our usual departure. I could hear your voice across the hall talking on the phone. Friday mornings were usually pretty quiet; as you slept in, my souls were itching for a walk. At the time I was mad at you for being late. But now I wish you had taken hours or even days on that phone call.

We walked through the dusty back streets that always left a soft residue of dust on my skin. We crossed the main street to enter the gate of the mosque, while the voice of the Imam echoing through the loudspeaker. It was another Friday prayer, where you left me to guard the door as you traveled deeper into the mosque. Every time people began to exit the mosque at the end of a prayer, my heart skipped a beat at every unfamiliar face that looked down at me, but it was always you who came to find me.

You left me in a crowd of my own kind, where I saw young, old, male, female, poor, and rich. As you prayed, my siblings and I shared our stories. There were tales of greasy restaurant floors, office drama, preschool fights, and even the stories of those normally trapped to the confines of their homes aside from their weekly trip to the mosque.

Suddenly everything changes. The stories that I heard but never thought I’d see myself, were all of a sudden too real. My young heart was so scared and broken that I had lost track of what and where I was. There were many people running out of the mosque, but not one of them seemed to pay us any regard. They wouldn’t even look back, but I knew that you would. Where were you?

It’s been a week. They came to take the bodies, they cried, they even buried some. They took pictures of the mosque, and then they started to wash and repaint it. Within a week, it looked like nothing had ever happened. I’m still waiting for you, hopeful of your return.  Even if you never return, I will always be reminded by the stains of your sweat, tears, and blood that I carry on my skin.

- Shoes

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