My shoulders have two heavy tracks in them, indents from the baggage I’ve carried. Not emotional baggage, though I’m sure there’s plenty of that buzzing around me in a cloud, Pigpen-style.
I mean actual bags. Canvas totes, weekenders, those weirdly flimsy reusable grocery bags. All of those litter my car, my room, my life. I’ve been moving for years. Shuffling back and forth between parents’ houses, a boyfriend’s bed, work, a friend’s couch, my car’s passenger seat. I’ve gotten ready for school in dark hotel rooms. I’ve shaved in gas station bathrooms. I’ve gotten ready for work in my car countless times.
When you’re forced into a quasi-nomadic lifestyle like that, you learn to plan. To anticipate. There’s no room for incidental, unintentional or hope-for-the best. You’ve got a ticker running across the bottom of your mind like CNN, except for instead of the Malaysian Airlines flight, it’s always another packing list, chanting, “Don’t forget.”
I’m great at packing. I rarely forget things because they’re always ready to go from the last time. And if they aren’t, hey! there are four more sticks of deodorant in my car. I’m the mom-like 21 year old with Aleve, Chapstick, some Canadian currency, a change of underwear, wet wipes, and an in-case-it-gets-cold scarf in her purse. I’m perpetually and eternally packed. Ready to leave. Ready to move.
I’ve never gotten to settle. I’m awful at unpacking, because what’s the point? I’m just going to have to pack again in another couple days.
There’s something poetic, however, about having your whole life reduced to a bag. Like a glamorized, child-of-divorce drifter, I’m always a stuffed backpack away from my next temporary holding spot. Perhaps this ought to have taken away my attachment to things, to clothes, to ownership in general. But I think it only increased it two-fold.
Here I am, ready to wander the earth, not scared to move and run and go wildly afloat. But I want my stuff with me. I want my grandmother’s class ring and my father’s leather backpack. I want the worn out Boston Bruins t-shirt from my favorite aunt. Those are my constants. Not the people. Not the places. But everything I could fit in a bag.