Thursday, June 15, 2006

No excess baggage

Last night I got back home really late and curled up in the back seat of our van instead of tucking myself into bed.
My backpack was my pillow and I fluffed up my workout clothes from the morning, so my head could nestle a bit more snugly. Being small has its advantages and I turned to my side as I did so often on train berths. My legs like this and my arms like that and my head slightly inclined. Just so.
I had my toes pressed up against the window and the sky was suddenly at my feet. I watched a grand total of six stars through the dusty glass. Shining and sputtering in the sky through clouds and reflected lights from a sleepy city.

I didn’t sleep much, but I remember dreaming of train journeys. Of watching changing scenery fly by my window as different kinds of dust settled on my skin. Of lying on my side in my upper berth just so, knees bent, my backpack for a pillow and my alarm set on my cell phone to wake me well before my station arrived. Sometimes, the lower berth people would put a bag or two at my feet, smiling apologetically by way of seeking permission. Often I’d click my tongue at the loss of precious leg room when I stretched or wanted to switch sides, but often, I’d feel a little more cosy, being closely packed. Like a breathing book tucked in between two bookends. On a warm shelf of my own. I’d feel more comfortable somehow with compressed bits of days and lives framing my head and feet.

My own backpack always has my house keys, cell phone and wallet in it. And also my journal, gym clothes, basic toiletries and something to read. Everyday, always. I carry my life in my backpack. All my worldly possessions, I often explain to those who ask. It sits close to me on buses and in autos. Waits patiently to be picked up from the backseat when I drive. Holds everything I feed it and lets me rummage through its insides whenever I need money for a meal, an umbrella for downpours, and lip gloss and kajal for those impromptu diva moments.

And late last night, when everything grew suddenly still and the car windows were freezing to the touch, I slept with my head on my backpack and felt an almost-forgotten sense of comfort.

At the first hint of birdsong I got out of the car and realised I was happy - not just because I was safe in my own car in my own garden outside my own house - but because I was looking at the place I called mine. And I had everything I needed. Right on my back.
I could totally be a tortoise.