I very rarely clean out my bag. It’s a decision that is partially compelled by laziness, and then partially motivated by my fear that the moment I throw out something from one of the innermost pockets, I will realize that I need that very thing again. It’s like my own mini-episode of one of the television shows about hoarding; except instead of finding the corpse of my long-missing cat under piles of cardboard and kitsch, my version is covered in leather and well-hidden from the world. Until now. Here are ten of the most telling things contained in my bag right now: 

A pair of sunglasses I stole from my mother. Steal is harsh. She actually let me borrow them because 
she was tired of watching me squint. As hard as I try, I can’t keep a good pair of sunglasses for much more than a few months. My last three pairs met their ends as follows: 

1) An off-yellow, faux-bamboo pair from a store called The Dot Fox in Louisville. They were sort of chic in a manic pixie dream girl kind of way. I accidentally left them on a Starbucks table in the East Village this summer. I returned no more than 15 minutes afterwards, but they were already gone. 

2) The replacement pair for my bamboo glasses came from a Gap store across the street. They were round, a little John Lennon-inspired, and though they were $25 , I felt I had gotten a deal because they were in the 50 percent off bucket. When I got home, I dressed my dog Phoebe up in them, posing her with them on the tip of her nose and wrapping a scarf around her ears like a canine Grace Kelly. One day, she had enough, and the glasses were no more. 

3) A pair from Target. They snapped under the weight of my bag one day. This is why I can’t have nice things. 

A Band-Aid (unused) that looks like a strip of bacon. This is self-explanatory. 

A signed photo of David Sedaris. I’m not the one who had it signed; in fact, I’m not sure who did. I found the photograph— a dashing portrait in which he looks about ten years younger— in a box at the public radio station where I now work, buried under a year’s worth of CDs and books that have been sent for review. It says “To WFPL with friendly friendship,” followed by a Sharpie scrawl that I assume is his signature. 

Two black Moleskine notebooks. One old and one new. The old one is written through on every available centimeter of paper. Most of it is pretty straightforward. Story ideas, to-do lists, class assignments. However, there are some cryptic bits (Examples: The phrase Octopus eyes written over a little sketch of said octopus; REAPER PEPPERS = SCARY in red pen). The new one is so pristine, I haven’t had the courage — or the ideas— to make my mark on it yet. 

A receipt from Birch & Barley, which is this cute little gastropub in DC. I had a flatbread which was so astonishingly good— covered in creamy smears of goat cheese, tart figs and fatty prosciutto (have you picked up that I have a think for pork?)— that wanted to finish the whole thing myself, though it could have easily fed three people. Thus, I did the only sensible thing a woman can do in that situation. I asked for a to-go bag and, once behind closed  hotel doors, ate another piece while sitting in bed watching “Property Brothers.” 

Frank X Walker’s “About Flight” which is my favorite kind of book to carry: Light, but deep. Underlined is the phrase, “I am simply the academy’s pet dog,” which always makes my stomach feel as if it has dropped a floor without the rest of me. 
Two hair clips. The simple, multi-toothed kind that more adept women can somehow use to make twists and buns and braids that look effortless. I do not have this ability. Instead, I get frustrated when my pinning and tucking turns my hair to frizz. Inevitably, I position the two clips toward the front of my scalp like cat ears, prance by the mirror while relishing for a moment in the absurdity of it all (our society’s standards of beauty, the fickleness of trends— though mostly my own ineptitude), before finally dropping the clips back into the recesses my bag. 
A brochure for Museum Of Modern Art. You know that children’s book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” about the kids who decide to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art indefinitely? Well, I could spend at least a week living in MOMA, sleeping each night under the watchful eyes of the Andy Warhol portrait. 
A pack of special edition “The Hungry Caterpillar” crayons because I am a child (and because my mom loves me). 
Several rogue black tea bags. How else would I get through the day in the event of a caffeine emergency? 


Ashlie Stevens is an MFA candidate at the University of Kentucky. Among other publications, her work has been featured in print or on the web at The Atlantic, National Geographic, Slate, Salon, The Guardian, Hyperallergic and Eater. She is a contributing arts and culture correspondent for WFPL News, Louisville’s NPR affiliate.