The Weight Is Worth It
a response to The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The question of “what do you carry?” leads me to the very simple answer of “too much.” If you were to ask me why do I carry, or how do I carry, or who do I carry, I could give you a much clearer and concise essay. But since that is not the case, this will have to do. Let’s see. On a daily basis, I carry numerous things. I carry my phone, earphones, a charger, band-aids, cans, and cans of Arizona, the necessities. Sometimes I carry a journal and almost always forget the pen. Other times I carry nothing and regret it. As I roam around carrying nothing, I feel exposed and naked, a deer caught in headlights but the headlights are spotlights and the road is the stage. I wonder if this is a universal experience. That every human feels the need to be prepared for everything, that the change in your pocket, the things you carry but then scatter throughout the day, mean more to you the more you live.
“I think about how that person got dressed that morning not knowing they’re wearing their dead man clothes.”
I carry impatience and not being able to sit through end credits. The end credits feel like the ghost of the movie, trying to hold onto life so badly that it will haunt the living to do so. The end credits are too greedy to be the end. Seeing those names without faces makes me anxious, and it’s always too cold in the movie theater. Why are ghosts always described as chilly? Why can’t they be hot, walking, dead steam? I think people would be a lot more wary of them if they burnt your insides when they pass by instead of leaving you with a raise of the hair. When I watch something made for a single sitting, I can’t focus. Everything but the movie suddenly becomes so much more interesting. Was that light always there? Why? It’s so hideous! Oh, that spot on my wall looks like a camel with Jesus on his back. Jesus is the only dead person allowed to haunt the living.
I carry my skin and everything in between: my lungs, bones, muscles, heart. I constantly feel like I’m in a swimming pool fully clothed with my bag full of junk I can’t part with. I carry it with confidence, too much confidence that it breaks and all spills out. I’m watching the materialistic things sink to the bottom and I can’t go further than the surface of the water but I can see them going further away from my fingertips. The things I begged for are being soaked and submerged forever. My organs are swimming around in their own filthy pool. Sometimes I think too much about breathing and the pumps of blood in my heart, how it chokes and sputters inside me. My heart was never taught how to calm down. When that happens I have to check the pulse on my neck to remind myself that I’m still alive. And until I can feel those bu-dump, bu-dump, bu-dumps slow-down, I am being tossed around in a stranger’s palm, and my fate is up for grabs.
I carry the weight of being human: stomach aches, headaches, my lost baby teeth in my mother’s underwear drawers. When you are taught about mortality, no one prepares you enough. You can not pack a bag for the talks about death. When I first learned the word death, I treated it like any human would, with curiosity and fear. As I continued to learn about my inevitable end, the fear turned into sadness. I discovered that sadness is the only emotion I can feel in my stomach like it’s something I’ve swallowed and went through the process of digestion. S came first, then a d n e s s followed and played scrabble in my stomach. It sat by itself, warding off last night’s dinner. No one told me how heavy an internal organ could be.
I carry not being able to spell sincerely right without autocorrect. Or saying, “I am a strong, independent woman,” but will do a, “but I’m oh so fragile” when it comes to girl push-ups and bugs in the house. I need to be taught that seeking help doesn’t make me weak, that I will never know how to solve world peace. I need to be humbled, to have someone shove their finger in front of my mouth and tell me to shut up. I need to be grateful that I’ve never witnessed the death of another, that whenever I see a death splattered on the news, it only affects me for a couple of minutes. I need to remember that the world stops only for those minutes and not the rest of my life. I think about how that person got dressed that morning not knowing they’re wearing their dead man clothes. What they carried that morning wasn’t enough. So I will carry their things for them, fistfuls of gratitude, and socks full of hope that I can see the sunrise the next morning. Over time I will lose as many things as I will carry and then have my inevitable death with my bags full of junk. And everyone will know that I died because they will hear the sounds of empty Arizona cans clatter to the floor. The world will weep.