This black leather backpack is stained with cigarette ash. It’s been an accomplice to a half-year’s worth of experimentation. It’s been sitting hopelessly alone at bars by the depleted margarita glass. It’s been on my back forcing what confidence. It’s been erecting my spine and my jellied libido.
The front zipper is a silver curiosity in dim lit bars. It’s a little metal exposure and a method.
Within it is the incidentals of my life. There is a cheap dime store mascara to create ironic black lashes, clumped sexuality, the ultimate flutter, and the fuck opener. There is burgundy lipstick, expensive like desire, that smoothes on like silk. There is a powder that grips the lip and melts into the color of flesh. It’s the flush of the big bang; the round O. It’s the dark tint of blood.
There is a name- written on a slip of white paper. A mystery of my ex-husband’s creased permanently with a line of loose powder and grime. It was one of the keys that unlocked my lips and forced my tongue to twirl out the request for separation.
There is the address of an artist from Santa Fe who became my first rebound pet. He had a girl’s name and I knew him over the course of five conversations. GTE was our anonymous tool and our educator. We were liars.
There is a handy wipe from an old fried chicken dinner.
It’s been six months since I left.
A warped plastic business card holder bulges with a one-inch thick stack. The 2 x 4’s packed into it are already dying, having recently been wet, the juice of pulp mashing out the particulars of name, date, place, association, into an obsolete soil.
A letter is frantically scribbled on legal paper from my last lover. Is there a problem? Call me! PLEASE!
My new boyfriend Chris’ phone number is there, balled up on lined notebook paper in a corner pocket, from when we hadn’t yet memorized each other, when I was still infamous and strange, and he was not yet real. It’s odd how we perceive human contact, how it de-bones us.
There is an ancient invitation to a family barbecue that I neglected in my preference to not be invited to the past.
Flipping up the flap reveals my weed dealer’s number written on a stick-it note, including my own code to page him with.
A blackberry lip-gloss is depleted and smudged, sooty and void, remnants of a lip discovering its beauty. The empty cartridge is a memento of power.
The black eyeliner goes into the trash bin immediately. Garbage day is over. Small renovations like these rid the crusty eyebrow façade of painter-masquerader.
There is a personal agenda that has failed to do its deed. Empty pages of years, months, blank columns, the future, reminders of misery, job hunts and needing impossibilities like money. Sheets of dreams and desperation between black patent leather. Jottings presented in a myriad of scrawl depending on time or location and the temperature of anxiety peppering any given moment of recording that name, that address, that number correctly. Did I hear you right?
And finally, there is an address book that makes me feel shame and liberation simultaneously.
It is full of those from the past six months:
- A French restaurant waiter with long hair and a boring health nut tendency to run marathons.
- The tattoo parlor where Joe needled my flesh as I watched Chris’ arm transform into an orange dragon.
- A friend from high school who is still in love with me, who says his knees start to buckle when he looks into my eyes.
- A girl I used as a mere body to fill in the empty seats at restaurants, bars, movies, and street fairs who tweaked all my greatest insecurities.
- Chris’ number again like graphite, like a persistent carving in stone.
- A string of relatives and therapists.
- A guy who helped nurse my wounds through the divorce by taking me out in broad daylight to shoot pool and drink beer.
- A photographer who fell head over heels for me the first time we met whose kindness scared the raw nerve of me.
Why do I save this address book when these recollections bring renewed torture?
At the bottom, loose and forgotten are a lip tone tinted chapstick, a business card from a nail salon, a gas card, and peppermint candy. These are all things that hint at my post-longterm-relationship jump into vanity, the great swan dive into being alone that lived with me for the first days of my single status. The way I wore my hair, the new color on my toes, the sex appeal that oozed from me and beckoned someone new.
It’s time to throw away this backpack; this container of a fallen female; these shaky clues of a woman suddenly cut loose from everything she had known before.
I save three things though. From the very bottom, I pull out a gray iron lock, a black barrette and a buckle. The lock reminds me of what I find safe and what I do not. The black barrette that looks girlie reminds me of loss and redemption. And the buckle will unclasp when I decide to finally unbuckle the door that has closed over my heart.
Short Story Written by Kimberly Nichols
Newtopia managing editor KIMBERLY NICHOLS is author of the book of literary short fiction Mad Anatomy, a contributing editor to 3AM Magazine and has exhibited as a conceptual artist throughout California for the past decade. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in magazines and media internationally. She was a founding editor of Newtopia in its former incarnation where she was also a member of the NewPoetry Collective. She is currently at work on her novel Fish Tales: Looking for the Bird with the Golden Feather. Follow her daily beat poetry on Twitter @LITGFOA or her arts and literature blog.