Things I Carry

[This was a writing prompt from the Chilmark Writing Workshop, which I had the pleasure of attending September 15-18, 2014.]

The way you see it, if Mary Poppins’s carpetbag romanced a Boy Scout’s knapsack, the illegitimate offspring would be jealous of the sheer volume of things I carry in my tote.

I carry a mess of crumpled, wadded tissue, a habit passed down from my mother, who would pull a paper towel of questionable origin from her pocketbook and tell me to blow my nose, as she licked her thumb with a smacking sound and smudged dirt from my cheek. I try to replenish with clean packs, but it is always allergy season when you’re allergic to grass, and my nose is forever a faucet.

I carry a protein bar, because I’m terrible at remembering breakfast, despite your many lectures on kick-starting my metabolism and your inability to believe I could actually not be hungry the second I open my eyes. In the end, you will end up eating this snack, because you are bratty when you’re hungry and I really packed it for you anyway.

I carry Excedrin for my headaches and if we’re completely honest, really just for the caffeine, because I can’t party like I used to. I carry a few extra, because the second I pop one, all my friends will want one as well. You’d think it was cocaine the way we all fiend for it.

I carry two pairs of earrings—sensible studs and funky chandeliers. I’ve only had pierced ears since I turned 36, and I enjoy having options.

I may very well carry a cigarette that I bummed off a stranger after my fourth beer last night, that I forgot to smoke, but will discard later in shame.

I carry my jangles, one, two, and three. Jangle One is the locket received from Gram and Gramp on my eleventh birthday. It contains snapshots of my grandfather in his full formal Air Force regalia and my grandmother in her red, white, and blue Fourth of July sweater, her white hair like cotton candy. Jangle Two is the T token that a friend found in the pocket of his two dollar secondhand store blazer and I quickly absconded with, as it meant more to me than it did to him. The T was the conduit for you and me in our early days together: the duck boats, the E train, staples and glue. Jangle Three is the key you bought me from Tiffany when we hit for ten grand in a Superbowl pool—the key you love to fuck with my father about, claiming it’s the key to your pants.

I don’t carry the toothpaste, and neither do you. We always forget, and we will Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who will stumble down to the hotel desk half cocked at two AM to ask for a tube of the nasty generic stuff that will hardly cover one toothbrush.

I carry deodorant wherever I go, because you never know where and when you’ll need to reapply.

I carry your wallet, your phone, and your sunglasses, because you almost left all of them upstairs, and not having sunglasses makes you even crankier than skipping breakfast. And I want you to pay for things, even though the money comes from the same place. And I want to check into the hotel under your name, not mine, because sometimes it’s nice to pretend you’re chivalrous. You have many virtues, but chivalry is not one.

I carry the license that bares my name, not yours. My identity. See, when we got married, I already had a name. Yours is fun to tack on sometimes at cocktail parties or on the phone with the cable company, but I like the name I came with.

I carry a purse within my purse that fits the essentials—a phone, a credit card, a bit of cash. My shoulder tires sometimes by carrying all these things. I am toting the weight equivalent of a small child, and it’s starting to catch up with me. And I know at some point you will wonder out loud, “You’re going to carry all that?”

This purse within my purse, I carry like a lifeboat. It contains only the staples, the necessities. Within this clutch is a constant reminder that all the rest is lovely, but often superfluous, and I always have the freedom to just cut anchor and go.

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