The Itty Bitty Backpack Cure

The Itty Bitty Backpack Cure

Maggie Estep




One of the symptoms of being an Emotional Idiot is that I want all my ex-boyfriends to pine for me long after I have left them. Even if I was completely sick of them by the time we broke up, still, I expect them to never find a substitute for ME. I know this is grandiose but so what.


Accordingly, 5 months after I had left my ex-boyfriend David, when I was blissfully in love with my new boyfriend that I had left David FOR, I began to obsess over whether or not David was still pining for me.


I e-mailed him a note saying: "How are you?" Which, on the surface, may seem harmless enough, but what I really wanted was for him to respond, "I AM DYING WITHOUT YOU, NOTHING HOLDS ANY MEANING, I HAVE BECOME A MERE SHADOW OF MY FORMER SELF. I'M GONNA GO ON PROZAC AND END UP A HEADLESS TORSO IN A PINE BOX."


But David wouldn't play my little game. He e-mailed me back saying only this: "Please, Maggie, PLEASE."


I didn't know exactly how to interpret this. Did this "PLEASE MAGGIE PLEASE" imply that I was still pulling on his heartstrings? Or did it mean LEAVE ME ALONE, GO FALL OFF A BUILDING AND DIE.


I wasn't sure.



Then, a few days after all this, something terrible happened. I was walking down 6th street with my friend Ed, who is a poet like me. Ed and I were having a pleasant talk about the vagaries of love. We were trying to get to the bottom of why I was still pining over David whom I had dumped. We quoted famous love poems. "Love is a dog from hell. Love is dove strapped to the back of a warhead, it's the iron curtain, the iron curtain of love."


So. We were walking and talking and being poetic when a big gaggle of girls started walking ahead of us. They were attractive in that All-American way that makes me totally nervous. They weren't MY type, that's for sure. I have slept with two women in my life, and were there to be a third, she wouldn't look like any of those girls, I'll tell you that much. So. These girls were walking and giggling and they were all sporting those itty bitty backpacks that are so fashionable these days. It's like all the sudden a girl can't have a purse or a regular-sized backpack, they have to have ITTY BITTY BACKPACKS, I mean, what's UP with that? What the HELL do they have in those ITTY BITTY BACKPACKS?


My friend Ed then pointed to the girl with the ittiest bittiest backpack and said: "See those itty bitty backpacks? They're navigational devices for young girls. Inside the backpack is a micro chip that programs their behavior and also helps them to locate each other. That's why those backpacks are so popular now."


Just then, one of the girls made a funny twitching gesture with her arm. "See," Ed said, "her backpack made her twitch like that, soon people will be BREEDING inside itty bitty backpacks, this being the age of AIDS, they'll just start lopping off their genitals, sticking ‘em inside the itty bitty backpacks with the genitals of someone they find attractive and they will breed more people just like them."


"Yeah," I said then, "they can't function without backpacks and I bet they all think they're fat even though they're not. They wear itty bitty backpacks and gulp huge vats of Slim Fast and fantasize about being stranded in Ethiopia." Ed laughed at that and then, because these girls were being annoyingly loud but also because Ed, like me, has a sadistic streak, as we passed the gaggle of girls, Ed loudly said: "God, what a FAT bunch of girls."


The girls totally flipped out. They stopped in their tracks and all started grabbing their thighs, as if they had suddenly been STRUCK FAT.


But then those girls unwittingly got even with me because I right then happened to notice that on the back of the girl with the ittiest bittiest backpacks' pack there was a sticker for the band Lotus Crew which is, you guessed it , my ex- boyfriend David's band. The Itty Bitty Backpack Chick was wearing a sticker of my ex boyfriend's band.


My little world caved in, in that instant and clarity came rushing at me like a malevolent freight train: Of course David WASN'T still pining for me, he was in fact busy having sex with an itty bitty backpack chick and had better things to do than e- mail me and his writing me a note that said PLEASE MAGGIE PLEASE in fact meant "Please go away, I'm too busy with my Itty Bitty Chicks, buzz off."


This thought struck horror in my heart. Ed tried to appease me and remind me that it was me that left David and I had no logical right to expect him to pine .


But logic has nothing to do with it.


A few more days passed. Out of the blue my ex- boyfriend, David suddenly decided to call me on the phone, "Hi Maggie, it's David," he said.


"Oh, hi," I said. "What, you managed to take five minutes off from having sex with an itty bitty backpack chick and call me?"


"What?" said David


"You're sleeping with a girl with an itty bitty backpack." I said accusingly, waiting for him to reassure me that no, he wasn't doing this and if and when he EVER slept with ANYONE again, they would look EXACTLY like me.


"Wow," David said then, "Good call."


"Good call?" I said, horrified, "You mean you actually ARE sleeping with an itty bitty backpack chick????"


"Um," David said then, "actually, it was only heavy petting."


I was horrified. I hung the phone up as if it were on fire then sat at my desk feeling sorry for myself.


But then, magically, David's heavy petting with the itty bitty backpack chick served as a release. Anyone who could go from me to an Itty Bitty Backpack Chick wasn't worth losing sleep over.


And so, this is why I am now terribly fond of itty bitty backpacks.


      Out-take from Emotional Idiot. Published by Harmony Books, 1996



      from Tribes Issue 7