The Things She Carries

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Most couples have a “thing,” something that bonds the two of them together, a tradition almost. For some, it might be weekly hikes. Others, maybe it’s as simple as completing the Sunday crossword together. For Alex and me, our thing is films based on American history, all history for that matter. I think I grew an interest because of him. 


Recently, he and I have been spending our Sunday evenings watching Masters of the Air on Apple TV. It’s a World War Two mini-series about the US Air Force. He and I have gotten into this nighttime routine together: eat dinner, shower, homework, snack and then TV downstairs cause it’s the better size screen. It’s comfortable; consistent. The show itself has been absolutely amazing. I had high hopes for this series. Alex has me watching a lot of these types of films these days. Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Hacksaw Ridge, All Quiet on the Western Front, you name it. All of those are on Netflix, by the way. 


Last week, my professor assigned our class a novel to read before the midterm, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. A novel centered around the Vietnam War; I was thoroughly interested. Plus, I would read anything by O’Brien, a classic American novelist. It wasn’t the first time I had picked it up either; I hadn’t thought about it since high school. I was a junior, maybe a senior, when I first picked up my first hard copy. A platoon of American soldiers fighting on Vietnam soil; based on the authors own experience. The book consists of stories that link and intertwine with one another. 

Things that were necessary to survive the grounds; to survive their minds. They lugged tear gas, weapons, tools, rations, love letters, boots, pantyhose and countless of other random items deemed priceless or as expensive as another’s soul. Deep in the bottom of their packs, they stored grief, terror, longing, dignity and regret. Invisible burdens pressed on their backs. It got me thinking about things that I carry with me. 


A journal. One with a brown, moleskin cover. Gifted to me last Christmas during a Yankee swap. I wanted to use it as a place for me to reflect and brainstorm, but it looks better as something that takes up space. 


A Summer Friday’s lip oil. One that Alexa’s mother decided to buy for me since there were only two more left in Sephora. All the cool 10-year-olds are wearing it now a days. I remember eating dinner one night at Olive Garden, Alexa sitting in the booth across from me. “Tracy’s in Sephora, they have two more summer Friday’s lip oils. Want me to have her snag you one?” Should I’ve had said no? 


Pens. An abundance of pens, most of which no longer work, but save just in case. I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought a pen, they just somehow keep appearing in my possession. 


Wallet, keys, cellphone. Items typically glued to the bag you take whenever you leave the house. Wherever you go, they come with you. I’m always misplacing one of them. Sometimes I wish they were all just one thing. Imagine just needing your phone to start your car. Sounds awfully “Tesla” to me. 

Let’s see, what else? 


I carry a lot of anxiety, all the time. It’s not something that you can touch, but it’s the heaviest item in my bag, right next to The Godfather by Mario Puzo on hardcover. I keep telling myself, “Today’s the day I finally start it.” I have anxiety about my future, my relationships, my finances. I worry and stress about everything from the ordinary, to the 1% of “what if” scenarios. One’s like having my identity stolen or my boyfriend sticking a fork in a toaster. 


I’m an imperfect 23-year-old woman with a fairly low credit score, too many semesters of undergrad, and a relationship with a sibling who’s name I’ve since forgotten and yet, every day, I pick up my bag. I throw its straps over my shoulder and resist the weight as it tries to pull me back down. 


Sometimes, it feels like the weight will always be there, forever. I can’t deny that they won’t be. But as time goes on, we can bear its load. Every day, it becomes a little bit lighter… and lighter… and lighter…