Woman-Child, Empty Your Bag! by Jonell Pangle-Merriweather

Your heavy bag is making you weary, not to mention sore. Why, your shoulders even appear uneven! This is a professionally packed suitcase whose contents have accumulated over the years. Finally you decide to end the mystery, saying to yourself, “What’s making this bag so heavy?” Tossing out its contents like wilted lettuce, you think, “It’s such a relief,” right? Because now the suitcase is so very empty.

“Look at all this space!” you exclaim automatically, scanning your environment because the lightness you now feel is like helium within you—so much so that you actually begin to miss the weight, the splinter, miss the soreness that kept your attention, masking as purpose.

But then along comes from nowhere a man with demonstrative insight and curiosity. He stands a long moment, even after you’ve become aware of his presence, without speaking a word. You carry on although more slowly, distracted by the unexpected audience, you continue to place items into the empty bag without thought.

“Are you going somewhere?” His words startle you, despite their soft delivery and the indicative gentleness of the asker.

“Why should he be so curious?” you think annoyingly as you investigate him with suspicion. His clothes are simple, clean and without flair. His appearance commands no attention and yet with only his words he’s completely captivated you. His sudden arrival has you wondering, as you observe his hands half pushed into his front pockets, where he even came from.

“Just passing by, thought I’d check in,” came the answer to your unspoken query. He repeated his question more slowly, enunciating the final word. “So, where are you going?

Realizing that honesty is priceless when interacting with someone who answers the unasked, your acquiescence is fleeting, and so truthfulness flows from you because you’re open, empty and willing as you utter without stall, “I have no idea where I’m going,” pausing before raising your index finger, a genuine display of intention, you continue slowly, thoughtfully and with more sincerity than you can remember, “But I do know I wish to go somewhere.”

His brow is knitted in a way that reminds you of your father when you asked him why the sky was blue. He pondered just as your father had, “Yes, I understand that, Bettie.” With a smile spreading across his face he reveals what he’s been thinking, “You have always had such an adventurous spirit and a hunger lust to break out.”

“Right?!” you concur enthusiastically and without question, thinking how refreshing it is to finally have a curious being around who understands you. You haven’t even considered the magic it must take for a stranger to know you this well. But you are distinctly lighter in step, lighter than before, suddenly noticing that you reverted and have been refilling the bag again. It’s nearly full, and you are unaware how long you’ve been auto-piloting.

Your observer casually swivels from side to side like he’s suddenly found great pleasure in the relaxed exchange.

The pace at which you were previously going has slowed significantly, even stalling at times. Another smile emerges from the casual observer which proceeds a nod. “What is it?” he asks as though he already knows, while brushing over the ground with his sneaker.

Clarity washes over like the soft drops of a warm rain, “Well, I was just thinking,” sighing deeply in appreciation for what you’re about to say, “I should figure where I’m going so that I know what to pack.” Lifting your eyes to his for understanding, maybe validation, you get even more in return.

He mirrors your thrilled and illuminated expression while patting you tenderly on the back, “Right?!”

The gaze you once laid upon the stranger pivots back to your suitcase which is somehow empty again, astonishingly so. Returning back to where the stranger once stood, are only the sneaker swishes left in the dirt and, along with your emptied bag, are the only indications that he was ever there.

Jonell Pangle-Merriweather, who is a Buckeye transplant currently living in sunny Southern California, has forever enjoyed the written word. Having recently completed her first novel, Come Here: A Collection of Erotic Short Stories, which awaits publication, she continues to evolve and explore new ventures within poetry, prose and vignettes. Her writing style has been described as both concise and free-form, predilecting various subject matters of the visceral, personal reflections, growth and, the most recent inspiration, her newfound love.

When her partner, who is sadly separated from her during COVID, imagined them together for a day at the beach, wrote a vignette for her to enjoy a time that has yet to come, she naturally answered his version with one of her own. Since challenged by this distance, they have curated a life for each other in written form where they exchange what can best be described as modern-day love letters, depicting the beautiful life they have yet to experience. These submissions were inspired by this love with all its beauty, grace and challenges.