I’ve heard them say that dog is man’s best friend. Well, I never had a dog. I’ve had only you, dear old friend, you who are so old I cannot even remember where I found you.
It was you who patiently waited as I packed and unpacked, and packed you up again before my first trip abroad alone to Russia, where I would study for a semester. You kept me warm and kept me company when I realized I was all alone as a traveler for the first time, independent and carefree—but your weight on my back reminded me of my reason for being there, as you carried my textbooks and notebooks, journal and camera, passport, and address book with numbers of friends and family waiting back home.
I returned home and you suavely made the switch from jet setter to campus cool. You were my pillow when I waited in the study lounges for my next class to start. You didn’t mind protecting me from the damp ground of the lush campus lawn in spring when it had just rained, and studying under a rainbow was sure to be good luck for an exam.
I leaned sleepily upon you in the backseat of the car on spontaneous midnight drives to Chicago, when my friends and I had ridiculous cravings for the excellent Indian food on Devon Avenue.
I even trusted you to carry my dorm key, which I had always worn around my neck until the chain broke one day, and I had no choice but to hide it in your deep inner pocket; but I knew my possessions were safe with you and only you.
I graduated college and took off across the ocean once more, this time to the tropical buzzing chaos of Bombay, and you tagged along. I am sure you must have felt strange lying on the dusty cement floor beneath my hostel bed for all those months I lived there as an NGO volunteer, but I needed to blend in, and I had to carry what I loathed most—an actual purse. I hope you understood that. But lucky you—that’s probably how you’ve kept your fresh blue complexion all these years. You weren’t exposed to the wild, relentless sun and smoky humidity every day as I was. I missed you, though, during that long, sweaty year. I missed the security you gave me, always watching my back. I missed your hidden pockets where I found forgotten things, lost and secret things like pretty pebbles or the crumbs of a leaf long dried out or old receipts that made me laugh.
Back home, you were my office bag that made the others wonder if I was the intern or the new reporter. But I knew who I was, and you carried all the professional accessories—my tape recorder, press pass, extra pens, notebooks—that I needed to prove to anyone who I was.
You were my visiting-the-mother-in-law bag that I clung to tightly in the early months of my marriage, pretending to fiddle through your pockets for something I wanted, but really just hoping that I wouldn’t have to ask or answer too many questions.
You took me up on the offer of further adventure when my husband and I decided to travel to Prague, and you were responsible once again for carrying my things as we flew across the ocean. This time, I was a little wiser and didn’t try to force everything into you that didn’t want to fit. I pared down to necessities, knowing I could do with very little, as long as you held onto what was most important.
We moved together everywhere, exploring the city by foot, going with friends to the park or the countryside, and whenever someone needed something, you were ever prepared for the occasion with bottles of water, a big bar of chocolate, fresh juicy apples, even an umbrella.
I curled up and cried with you in the corner at work when I found out my friend had almost died in the hospital, and you let me cry on you all the way home on the train. I even found tissues in your tummy pocket that you’d kept hiding for me, just in case, because you knew just what I needed.
Sometimes I forgot to zip you up in the cold winter commute, and only when I got on the metro, someone nice would tap my shoulder and point to you hanging loosely there on my back. Even then you never lost anything of mine, you never let anything fall.
As I’ve adjusted to life everywhere that I travel, you’ve adjusted to me without a complaint, only inching up or down on your straps that hold tightly onto me. Sometimes I am not sure who is holding onto whom.
They say that wherever one is, that is home. I say wherever I am with you, my dear friend, that is my home.
Here’s to many more years of companionship and adventure!
Suchi Rudra Vasquez is a freelance writer living in Prague.