He assumes it was an accident, rather than deliberate cruelty. He assumes it was drunken forgetfulness, or frustration with a blister, or something to spite the original owner of the shoe.
He tells himself it was not knowingly cruel.
It’s cruel, all the same. Somehow it’s worse that it’s only one shoe. One garish purple boot, made for striding confidently out into the world. A statement of sorts. I wear sturdy footwear, for the road I walk is long and hard; but I wear my footwear purple because fuck you, that’s why.
The shoe rests against his own feet. He sees it with his peripheral vision, stuck as he is with his gaze forever drawn upward, his mouth in that moue of astonishment.
When he first reached this town, with his two equally gormless, equally impressed bronze friends, he was astonished. He was impressed. Now he’s just here. All the time. Every day. Staring at the roofscape and wondering what else he’s missing. The people who pass him talk of other things. A river nearby. A tall gilded tower that can see way out to the ocean (and what is an ocean, he wonders? The closest he can understand is that it’s vast like the sky and wet like the clouds: to him the moon on stormclouds is his understanding of ships and seas).
Other people speak of even stranger places. Sand and forests and cities with great bridges and snowfall. He doesn’t really know what those words mean, but they sound wonderful.
He longs to go. To bend and snap his metal feet from the concrete and take a step. Take two. Three and four and to see a new angle of those rooftops, a new street, who knows, maybe that river (a ribbon of dense cloud on the ground, he wonders, is that what it looks like?).
He longs to move and to discover.
Instead, one purple shoe leans against his own cold feet and reminds him that his wanderlust is futile. All he can do is stand and gawp and wait for the world to come to him, and hope that their exotic words like pyramid and lake and mountain and free will one day make sense.