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TO SACHI, THOMAS, AND AMY WITH LOVE

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Since I’m only sixteen, too young for a driver’s license, I carry around my school ID, a constant reminder that a career path in modeling is out of the question. Occasionally I twist the lanyard around my finger, whipping friends and enemies alike. Other times I stare at the picture, trying to figure out the mystery of the girl smiling awkwardly at the camera. I carry her features; almond eyes, tan skin that lightens during the winter, short hair. I recognize that it is me in the picture, but it’s through the eyes of a stranger. I look at this girl, who looks like me but is not me, and I wonder who I really am. I wonder how much of me is there in the picture, and how much of me I carry in real life.
On a regular school day, I carry 22.4 pounds of school-s***. I carry textbooks, binders, paper clips, highlighters. I carry them all in a MADE IN CHINA backpack that is worn around the edges, with holes that drop a trail of loose change and paper behind me. Often I reach into my backpack and, with surprise, pull out twenty bucks. But more often than often, I reach in and find the remnants of last week’s gum, or the sprinkles of cookie crumbs. On weekends, I carry relief. I carry the laxness of someone waiting for something to happen. When Sunday comes along, dread snakes its way into my room, and I carry the grudging acceptance of Mondays.
I carry memories. Some memories stick out, like the time I humiliated myself at a piano recital. Others are bittersweet, like the last day of summer camp. That last hour we all sat around in a circle, the sun in our hair, the feel of grass beneath our bare feet. Looking from face to face, I realized how well I knew these people, much better than the people I’ve known my whole life. There was Sachi, who acted tough but cried out her sorrows at night; Amy, who was fearless and knew how to pole dance; Thomas, who was a goof, but was always there if you needed a friend. We were kindred spirits. I realized, with sadness, that this would be the last time we would see each other.
I still remember the details, how the sun cast rainbows as it reflected off Thomas’s watch, and the smell of Amy’s Moonlight Sonata perfume. But now it’s all in the past. It’s over with. We sat in a circle, savoring the beautiful summer day, silent, too afraid to say goodbye.

On a lighter note, I carry collections. If you stay long enough in my room, you may find the treasures peeking out from underneath the rubble, just waiting to be appreciated. They come in the form of stamps and clothes. They come in the form of books and art, rubber bands, paper clips, crayons that come in the colors of Mac N’ Cheese, Atomic Tangerine, Inch Worm, and Jazzberry Jam. My mom calls me a packrat and tells me to throw away all the garbage. She carries stainless steel kitchenware and glossy stilettos. People like her don’t understand the security of broken shells or basketball cards. I carry my truckloads of junk because when I pick up a beaded bracelet from summer camp, I can remember Sachi tying it on my wrist. A pack of Hubba-Bubba bubblegum reminds me of Thomas and the monster-sized bubbles he would blow. When objects get too fancy, you get caught up in all it could do. When objects are simple, when objects are junk-s*** that people don’t look twice at, you don’t marvel at its simplicity. Instead, you remember.

Here’s a short story: I was nine. I was playing piano, my skinny fingers too weak to sustain the sound. I was frustrated, but a dogged-sort of determination prevented me from quitting. An hour and a half later, my feeble fingers started to play, really play. To this day, I carry the calluses on my fingertips with pride.

I carry hopes, dreams, insecurities, love, loneliness, compassion. I carry hate and wrath, understanding and sympathy. I carry burdens. I carry regret. When I look at my school ID, at the picture of a girl frozen in time, I wonder what that girl carried inside her head, in her backpack, in her room, in her life. I look at the things I carry now, and for the first time I notice the sunlight casting rainbows off a picture of four people laughing hysterically, covered in signatures such as Love you, keep in touch! –Amy. Suddenly I’m tempted to flick the ID into a garbage can. I don’t need one to tell me who I am. I already know.





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