by Lauren Westerfield
Large bags yield loose ends. I carry a small one: Coach. Black, gold clasp, corners worn. $30 at La Lupe Vintage on University. “A steal,” my mom says. Besides my keys, there are only three things inside: iPhone, lipstick, wallet.
I prefer to travel light.
People notice the wallet. “That thing’s got a history,” they’ll say, nodding from behind the counter at People’s Organic Foods Market. “I’m sure,” I’ll reply, wishing I knew what it was. The wallet is leather, caramel brown, with red and yellow and blue embroidered binding and braided edges. Inside, the plastic sleeve covering my driver’ license is falling apart. I got the wallet at Kobe’s, the San Diego swap meet, for fifty cents off a jumble sale table. I thought it looked bohemian and cool, that it looked like “me,” not realizing how false my own sense of self would seem once people started asking about the wallet—where it came from, what it meant. It looks like the kind of thing one might pick up on an epic adventure—Peace Corps in Nicaragua, maybe, or a surf trip to Mexico. But I never did Peace Corps, and I don’t know how to surf. I just love trolling through Kobe’s with my boyfriend on cloudy Saturdays, picking through the dusty piles of other people’s goods, hunting for things that remind me of myself. The self I am, or maybe just the self I want to be.
For years, I couldn’t have imagined any of these selves owning an iPhone. None of them were slick or tech savvy or enticed by things like “apps” or “selfies.” The selves I knew were analog verging on Luddite. But they did have a collective weakness for pretty things.
Throughout my twenties, I owned a flip phone. Red and black. Motorola. Simple and functional. Then, two years ago, my dad got an upgrade and gave me his old iPhone 4. Even out of date, it was, in a word, sexy. Ubiquitous too, in a way that made my selves squirm with the fear of giving in, of joining. So I bought a phone case: olive ash burl, real hardwood, its rings a unique topography punctuated with dotted circles like breasts, like galaxies. The pattern is soothing; an antidote to Skittle-hued icons and slick plastic. Sitting at the café, I know I’m tapping away at the same screen as everybody else. But I always set the phone face down. This makes me feel better.
Both the phone and wallet stay in one pocket of my bag. In the other, I keep my lipstick. I own maybe half a dozen shades, but this is the only one I carry. The color is “Hope”: matte pink, somewhere between coral and mauve. It goes on easy and stays for hours. It doesn’t dry my lips or get sticky or catch stray hairs when the wind blows. It is called a “lip stain,” and smells like Play Dough. My lipstick is made from Amazonian clay and has no parabens, phthalates or sulfates. My lipstick is fucking gluten free.
I wear “Hope” for everything: work, a date, an afternoon of writing. I wear it even when I’m not leaving the house, even when I’m home alone making salad in the afternoon. It makes me feel “finished.” Like I have someplace to be. One tube costs $30. But for the perfect shade, it’s worth it.