I’m sitting at the ruby red Dell inspiron 1520 that now belongs to my family and looking through old files. I wrote this for my English class when I was a senior in high school. I had forgotten about it…but at the same time I hadn’t. I think a quote from my main man Albert Einstein prefaces it nicely: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” So…
The things she carried always changed: pens, lipsticks, movie stubs, expired metro cards, crumpled up pieces of paper with phone numbers on them or matters she needed to remember, gum wrappers, hair elastics, earrings, tiny plastic bags, paper clips. She was always misplacing her belongings, borrowing what she needed when she found she didn’t possess it, losing the stuff she borrowed before she could return it, buying new items, collecting various materials in her travels. The only invariables she carried were her cell phone and a photograph. Her cell phone she hardly ever answered but would use to fake phone conversations in foreign languages when she walked the streets during the day, and to pretend to call a strong, old man when she rode the trains late at night. The photograph was very old. It was a picture of a beautiful young girl, couldn’t be more than 17, with short curly hair blowing in a sea breeze, her eyes turned not at the camera but rather right above it, as though she were laughing at the person taking the shot. This was her grandmother: the one person with whom she thought she would ever really feel a connection or a sense of belonging, the comfort of being alike, hope, a desperate, tender kind of love. She had found the photo when her aunts were putting together one of those memory boards people put in the viewing room. As her aunts argued about what food would be appropriate, she had tucked it into her dress next to her heart and kept it on her person ever since.
She almost never carried any money. She had many jobs: waitress, dog walker, nanny, sales clerk, florist delivery girl, writer’s assistant. Still, she seemed to be always in debt: to her mother, a boyfriend, the doctor, the girl she had sat next to in class; and the movie theaters called her name. She had a problem with spending before she was paid, and so she borrowed many pens to write IOUs on many slips of paper.
She carried herself with a very definite sense of purpose. She walked well: her head held high, her chin level, her back straight, her posture erect. Every step she took was decidedly a step of grand importance, whether it led her somewhere of great magnitude or it led her to another movie, a drug dealer’s lair, a train she would miss, a dead end. She carried a moral compass as well, but that compass pointed only north or south. Everything she did was right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. She did as she pleased knowing wholly the decency of what she did, and did not rationalize her actions but maintained responsibility for them, and carried on.
She had once tried to carry everything at once: the pens, the lipsticks, the movie stubs, the expired metro cards, the crumpled up pieces of paper with phone numbers on them or matters she needed to remember, the gum wrappers, the hair elastics, the earrings, the tiny plastic bags, the paper clips, and also guilt for the sins she had committed, memories of her father beating her, accountability for her younger sisters, unyielding ambition, fear of failure, a creeping awareness that her efforts were futile, and copious amounts of love with equal amounts of hatred. Her grandmother had tried to help lighten her load, had talked to her, had understood. When her grandmother left, she found that the weight was too much to carry alone. For a while, then, she carried nothing. She floated like a jellyfish: weightless, buoyant, completely devoid of emotion. She worried her mother very much when she did that.
As time passed, she realized it, and she reemerged from the ocean, and walked on the street and rode the trains, to appease her. It was as though she had awoken from a fuzzy dream. She carried the photograph of her grandmother. She carried her cell phone. She carried the pens, the lipsticks, the movie stubs, the expired metro cards, the crumpled up pieces of paper with phone numbers on them or matters she needed to remember, the gum wrappers, the hair elastics, the earrings, the tiny plastic bags, the paper clips. She borrowed what she needed, bought things, collected others, lost them again. She carried new knowledge and answers to questions that she had never wanted to know, and a mask to keep that knowledge, those answers hidden. She kept her head held high. She carried on.