The TWA Bag (Story by R.C. Peris)

I had my issues with my mother but I was loyal. I wasn’t going to turn on her. She was insane but sometimes I felt love. I felt her effort to care for me. In my freshmen year of high school, I was selected as a cheerleader after a grueling tryout. I was used to it. I had been auditioning for The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Junior University for thirteen years. Practice for cheerleading began in the summer – July. School started in September. I showed up and was instantly disliked. Ignored. Talked about. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me but the girls didn’t like me. Every practice was a dismal affair. One day my mother, having returned from the thrift store, had a bag for me. It was roomy. It fit shoes and pom poms. The only problem was that it was from the 60s. It was red and white with a TWA logo. TWA went out of business years ago. It was likely a stewardess bag. Something to carry toiletries in as they shuttled from country to country. I kind of liked the bag. It was retro. I really know that word but I did get a kick out of the bag. My mother was so happy she could give me something useful. I hugged her and thanked her. On Saturday, I packed the bag with snacks, water, pom poms, extra socks, some makeup (definitely lip gloss) and headed off to practice. The bag was laughed at. Out in the open. Loud guffaws from spoiled cheerleaders with Guess bags. I didn’t know what to do. They made me feel shame and when you feel shame you tend to say nothing. Shame is the ultimate silencer. When I got home, my mother looked at the bag.

“It’s so cute,” she said.

“Yeah. A delight.” I went to my room and cried. I didn’t stop taking the bag to practice. I was stubborn and I wanted to make my mother feel good. That was always the burden of growing up. Making my mother feel good. She would often cry and say I was ashamed of her and I would have to placate her and assure her that I was not ashamed. Yes. I was loyal to my mother. She was crazy but I was loyal. But in small ways and big ways, I would discover over the years that she was not loyal to me. Fuck it. I kept the TWA bag all the way through college until I chucked it in the garbage before I left on the train for Boston.


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