I’m listening to Jonathan Schwarz on WYNC, because, you know, it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m trying to get used to going back to work by composing syllabi. I’m going back into the classroom, which is more like doing stand-up comedy than any other job I’ve had, but still, it feels new, it makes me nervous, and meanwhile this deep breathy pretentious radio voice now saturates every sonic space in this small apartment, so I’ve just given in, given up.
Old Jonathan is pretending to interview George Gershwin, and for god’s sake it’s convincing, especially as an introduction to “Ask Me Again,” a song that will break your heart unless you can’t hear, and then he plays the Nelson Riddle arrangement of Gershwin’s “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me,” where the brooding horns and the prickly guitar outweigh the insipid strings, framing Sinatra’s quavering voice perfectly, making it sound absolutely authentic, as if this man could mean what he says–as if you could believe what your lover just said, and act on it in good faith. Maybe that’s the music instinct.
But look at it another way. On the subway an hour ago I noticed that my black Kipling satchel–a gift from my girlfriend, a handsome and yet shapeless thing, always slouching toward dishevelment, perhaps it reminded her of me in my former life–well, I noticed that this familiar black bag had suddenly acquired some local structure, the backbone, you might say, it had lacked in its previous incarnation as the rumpled repository of everything I could carry on my way downtown.
I set it down on the floor of the subway car and for once it stood up on its own, not needing my tightened feet and locked knees to keep it upright. I looked quizzically at it, asking, What, do you think I’m just going to throw you away? Do you think that sitting up and begging for attention will prolong those days strapped to my shoulder? Do you think that this brand new, slim black case perched on my knee is your competition?
That new Casauri case was, in fact, perched on my knee, material evidence of my impending infidelity, my intention to carry the computer and its collateral freight in another way. It holds less than the old Kipling bag, even with all its incongruous pockets and sleeves, but that’s what I want just now, to hold less, to shed some baggage, to lighten up. That’s not as easy as it sounds. not even at my advanced age, because every divestiture, whether economic or immaterial, requires more emotional expenditure than what you think you’ve got saved.
So I looked at that old bag differently. I started rummaging through the once-limp satchel, and realized that its new, almost sentient posture was my girlfriend’s doing: she had put a stowaway on board this vessel, and it was a box of garbage bags. I was at first appalled–my secret cargo is plastic garbage bags?–but then I was grateful for the reminder of the need for structure in every life, including my own. So, I say, thanks, baby, for the bag(s).