They Carry Blinders

March 13, 2010
By Anonymous

There are the obvious things they all carry. Backpacks, water bottles, mounds of overdue homework, some pocket money, and the infamous cell phone are common. As students of Lexington High School, these are the things they can see each other carrying. Everyone knows Mary and Joe carry each other’s hands in the hallway. Mary carries a perfectly matching scarf every day: on Mondays and Tuesdays because she is feeling fashionable, and the rest of the week because she’s hiding some mortifying hickeys. Bob carries pimple cream because he thinks the puss-filled bumps make him look dirty. Cynthia carries her hair: a dark, shimmering bob of silk that swings when she prances down the halls. Joyce carries a purple rubber band she likes to snap on her wrist to stay awake in class. These are the things Mary, Joe, Bob, Cynthia, and Joyce see each other carrying. They think nothing more of each other.
Then there are the things the Lexington High students carry that others cannot see. Some carry inner joy; others carry sadness. Many wander the halls with worries and nervous hands with sweaty palms. And the rest carry nonchalance and ease. Mary and Joe carry regret because they now share an STD. Bob carries homosexuality and fear of telling his parents. Cynthia carries cheerfulness and a bubbly personality. Joyce carries depression.
Joyce sat behind Kathy in World History class freshman year. They were friendly to each other, but neither made an effort to become good friends. Joyce was one of the funniest, seemingly happy people Kathy had ever met. She was genuinely fun to be around. One Tuesday Joyce was absent for History. After two weeks of not returning, Kathy wondered what had happened to her classmate. She had no idea that Joyce had spent two weeks in the hospital being treated for depression. Joyce didn’t know that Kathy had an anxiety disorder that was heavily crushing her back and shoulders from its weight. They could have helped each other. But who knew what the other was carrying?
They all carry experience, but at different levels. Mary and Joe carry the desire to marry when they are eighteen, but Joyce only carries a first kiss and nothing more. Bob carries the knowledge of ridicule and what insecurity feels like; Cynthia carries the knowledge of how beautiful and precious the world around her is. All of them know that Joyce has been to Spain three times, but they don’t know she carries the experience of her brother dying in a house fire when she was younger. These experiences they carry are invisible to each other.
Running is Kathy’s favorite sport and outdoor track is her favorite season. She is among the fastest runners in the state. Kathy never really liked her track coach, Ms. Johnson, since freshman year. However, sophomore year, Ms. Johnson was especially nasty to her. She always gave Kathy long glares of demise during easy practices as if to make Kathy feel guilty that her coach gave her a break from the grueling workouts. For a while, Ms. Johnson hardly showed up to practice. Parents began to complain about her coaching commitment and Kathy, usually very cheerful, began to hate her coach. Kathy ran with anger and hatred. She glowed with ferocity after only warm-up. For all the hard work that Kathy put in, she never received one word of praise. Kathy began to ignore Ms. Johnson and tried to have as little to do with her as possible.
A banquet marked the closing of the track season, and this year, only about half the team showed up. They’d say, “Who wants to listen to a nasty old coach telling us how awful we are?” Kathy didn’t have much of a choice- she had to go to receive her all-state awards. Ms. Johnson began with the usual opening speech and then something happened that Kathy would never forget. Ms. Johnson’s eyes slowly turned glossy and as she blinked several times, a tear poured over her left eyelid. She began to apologize and, with flushed ruddy cheeks, explained how her sister had been sick in the hospital for the entire season and died last week. Kathy was in udder shock. If only I had known, thought Kathy.
There is one thing every student at Lexington High carries. Just like racehorses, they carry blinders on their eyes. They carry the inability to see each other fully: to really know what every other person feels and experiences. Each person carries a backpack filled with his thoughts, feelings, and experiences, among material items. Everyone can see part of what another student is carrying in his backpack. No one can ever see all of it.

The author's comments:
This piece is modeled after the first chapter of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. I think it is important that people realize we can never know another person fully.

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