I walk along a dusty road, carrying nothing but a suitcase. Not a single soul for miles – the only evidence of life is the straw-like grass growing on either side of me.
No voices, no commotion, no evidence of people to slow me down. I can hear only the rumbling of my trusty suitcase as it rolls over the uneven road. And my breathing – I can hear that, too.
I keep walking, one foot in front of the other, yanking my cargo behind me. With nothing to look at or listen to or even think about, I revel in how well I’ve managed to take care of my little suitcase over the course of my journey; I’ve kept it safe, preventing any of its contents from breaking or getting stolen or left behind. They are all I have, my prized possessions. It’s my job to look after them.
I look down at my shoes, dusty and orange, as I switch arms to pull the suitcase. I move my right arm around while my left takes over carting duties – I can feel the tension in my shoulder and neck. I lift my hand to the base of the right side of my neck and – OW! – is that a knot or has a rock started growing under my skin?!
I push down on what feels like an onion-sized knot as much as I’m able to withstand. I grit my teeth but hold the pressure. Man, that puppy hurts.
Still walking (I haven’t once broken my stride), I roll my head around and do some arm circles. How does one even get a knot in their neck just by pulling a suitcase? Is that even physically possible?
Rolling my head has taken my eyes off the road, and a tree catches my eye. Huh. That’s the first tree I’ve seen. I stare for a moment, until the pain beckons me to keep stretching again.
I keep rolling my neck while walking, but now I feel sore from my rigorous attempts to loosen the baseball knot. I decide to try to leave it alone and forget about it, which doesn’t work so well; the pain won’t let me forget. I start counting rocks to occupy my mind.
Small rock…small rock…medium rock…pebble…small rock…medium-small rock…ooh, large rock…hm…might be nice to sit down for a few minutes…
I didn’t realize how tired I was. Keeping my eyes on the ground so as to stabilize the muscles in my neck, I sit down on the large rock that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere on the side of the road. I let go of the suitcase handle, and, just for kicks and giggles, draw my hand up to the other side of my neck and – OW. Yep. There’s a knot on the left side, too.
I sigh in exhaustion and pain, and start massaging the second knot. I don’t even notice the little rabbit that pops out of the grass and sneaks up to my suitcase.
I flinch, startled. I look down to see a little brown cotton ball with ears sniffing my suitcase.
What are you doing?
The rabbit stops sniffing. I can see that. But what are you doing, out on this road all by yourself? It stares at me with warm brown eyes and the most genuine curiosity I’ve ever seen.
“Traveling. From here to there,” I say, gesturing from my dusty footprints towards the stretch of road ahead of me.
It turns around and looks back at my footprints as its ears perk up in excitement. You passed the rose garden already! It’s one of my favorite places! It squeaks and sniffs with delight.
I, on the other hand, furrow my brows and look quizzically at the rabbit. “I haven’t passed a rose garden.”
It turns back around to me, mirroring my confused expression. Yes, you have. It’s a few miles back, on the other side of the road from the rock that’s shaped like an elephant.
My brow tenses even more. What is this rabbit talking about?
“I never saw a rock shaped like an elephant, and I didn’t see a rose garden, either.”
Its confusion morphs into disbelief. Really? You didn’t even smell it? It has hundreds of gorgeous pink and yellow and orange roses right now. I can smell it for miles.
The rabbit sits up and inhales deeply, presumably smelling the roses right now. It relaxes, reveling in the sweet floral scent that is unavailable to my nose, and goes silent for a few minutes. Not knowing what else to say, I do, too.
I watch this little bunny as it sits, deep in thought. Its ears perk up as a breeze blows by, and its eyes move around until they fix on the grass swaying gently in the wind. It seems spellbound by this simple event. Still half-distracted by my massive muscle knots, though, I decline to join it in its reverie, instead absent-mindedly rubbing one shoulder for a few minutes before switching to the other.
Suddenly, the rabbit breaks its trance, and turns toward me again.
What is this? it asks, pointing to my roller bag.
“It’s my suitcase.”
What is it for?
“It carries important things.”
The rabbit tilts its head and drops one ear, expressing its pure curiosity. You have important things? Like what?
Eager for the opportunity to look inside my suitcase again, I decide to show off my treasured belongings to this inquisitive little rabbit.
I unzip the dust-covered luggage and swing the top over and onto the ground, revealing the precious contents. The rabbit hops up and peeks its head over the edge to peer inside.
I watch as it looks at the cracked mirror, gazing at its splintered reflection for several seconds, before moving onto the tarnished music box that doesn’t play anymore. Then it spies the bag of pearl beads that have broken off the string, next to a tattered and faded old baby blanket.
A stained mug with two chips along the rim.
A pair of shoes so worn I can see through the toes.
A candle burned to a nub on both ends.
A plush flamingo missing an eye.
And a water-stained book with unreadable pages.
I sit on my rock, beaming with pride at my antique collection – who else had amassed such a unique assortment of objects?
I watch the rabbit take its time observing every single item. As it comes to the end, it looks up at me. My pride dampens as I notice its puzzled expression.
Those are…very interesting things you have in there.
“Yes, they are my very important and unique things.”
What makes them so important?
Could this rabbit not see the importance of them? Sure, they may not look like much to anyone else, but surely this bunny understands that they must have sentimental value.
“They are a part of me, pieces of my past that have made me who I am.”
We stare at each other in silence for several seconds. I look back at my treasures, hurt that it doesn’t seem to understand the significance of my collection.
It’s just that –
That those things all seem so…old.
“That’s the point – they’re antiques.”
Are they useful?
“Oh yes, they were absolutely useful when –“
The rabbit stops me. I can tell they were useful, but are they useful now?
“Well…well, no. Not really, I suppose. But they’re not supposed to be useful anymore – they’re heirlooms. They help me remember who I am and where I came from.”
But they’re causing you pain.
The rabbit is no longer looking in my eyes, but at my left arm that’s cradling and massaging my right shoulder. I sheepishly drop my arms into my lap, even though I desperately want to keep rubbing my aching muscles.
Why do you keep carrying them with you if they’re hurting you?
My mind is racing. I had been hauling my suitcase with me for my entire journey – it’s a part of me –
None of these things are useful to you – they’re all broken…
– it’s my responsibility –
Sure, they were beautiful in the past, but they’re not helping you anymore…
– it’s just what I have to do –
Somewhere along the way, they broke….
– it’s my job to fix them someday –
And it’s okay to leave things behind once they’ve broken…
– I have to remember the past –
You are who you are without these things.
– I…I have to…I mean, it’s just…I can’t…
My mind spins and spins and spins, careening further and further away from my skull. I confuse myself into silence, yet in a desperate attempt to keep the bunny’s words from penetrating my heart, I look around in an attempt to distract myself by playing a little game.
What can I see around here that I haven’t seen before?
My eyes scan the landscape. I spy a cherry tree in full bloom. I hadn’t noticed that before – and yet here it is, not more than fifty feet away from me. I can smell its aromatic blossoms wafting through the air around me.
I observe the wind pick up a handful of dust and spin it into a mini funnel before dropping it back onto the ground.
I watch as a flock of birds ascend from the grass into the sky, creating their signature wedge formation before flying south.
I continue looking at the sky, a beautiful bright blue, with a few fluffy clouds, which look like a snowman, a unicorn, and a frying pan.
I sit on my rock, wondering how I have missed all of these wonders right in front of me – and the undeniable truth hits me.
I look back down at my suitcase. I look at the broken, inoperable collection of junk I have been hauling around.
And for the first time, I let myself wonder why.
Why did I expend energy day after day carting around a bunch of items that are of no use for me anymore?
I thought about the moment each one broke, and the pain I felt when the mirror shattered and cut my hand. When the toes of my shoes gave out and I stubbed my left big toe. When the candle burned my hand because I needed to light both ends to see through the darkness around me.
All of these things had hurt me. Why was I still taking care of them?
Why was I taking care of them as they continued to do nothing but hurt me?
Yet the act of letting them go seems impossible. I’ve carried them with me for years; how could I just…give them up?
I stare at the suitcase for several minutes, wondering what to do.
I notice my hands are massaging my shoulders still. The knots make themselves known again as I wince in pain.
Am I really about to do this?
With trembling hands, I pull the lid of the suitcase back and zip it closed. I stand up from my stony chair and realize the bunny is still there. I look at it.
“Can you show me the rose garden? I missed it the first time, but I’d really like to see it.”
The rabbit’s ears perk; its nose twitches, and a grin spreads across its face from floppy ear to floppy ear. It turns and starts hopping back in the direction my footsteps came.
I turn for one last look at my suitcase, take a deep breath, and follow the bunny.
Leaving my historical treasures in the dust.
… … …
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