The Things They Carried

Or The Existential Dilemmas of Watching the Movers.


Photo courtesy of Becky Stern

Oh good, the movers are here. I’ll just stand here like a powdered eunuch then, while burly men with huge, ropy arms move all my possessions into a truck. This is my first time… having three men in matching polo shirts emasculate me in my own living room.

Should I offer them coffee? Should I try and make awkward conversation? Maybe compliment them on their pecs? What’s the protocol? Should I just submissively lie on my back with my legs in the air? I feel sick.

Look at the size of them. Any one of them has more muscle on his thigh than I have on my entire body. These are men. You are not a man. These are men. These are the men who fought in the battle of Thermopylae. These are the men who built the Brooklyn Bridge. I wonder what they eat. Probably raw elk meat with their bare hands. Should I offer them some raw elk meat?

Is this me, contemplating how the other half lives? No, these guys are not the other half. Or rather, I’m not the other half. They probably have better dental insurance than I do. They almost certainly make more money.

I wonder if I could be a mover. I could move really small stuff, like the screws people put in little plastic baggies when they dismantle their furniture. That could be my specialty. I could have a nickname, “Screwy” or maybe just “Screws.” Maybe I could move people’s silverware, too. But “Silverware” is a way worse nickname. “Spoons?”

There’s no earthly reason I should own this many shelves. I’ve never even read half of these books. And now strong men are having to carry my unread books away. Look how they bend under the weight of my ignorance. I should renounce my possessions. I should just leave, go live in the woods. Should I tell them, or just go? Maybe I should yell something, like “Arrivaderci!” Or “Ciao!” “Ciao” is better.

I wonder if I’m gay. I wonder if these guys are gay. They certainly have better bodies than I do. I wonder if I were gay, and if these guys were gay, if they’d be interested in dating me. I wonder if I should go up to one of them and wink and stroke his arm ponderously. That sounds like a sensible thing to do. This is all happening so fast! What do gay people do with their time? Am I going to have to start going to clubs and getting really into wine? This is stressful. Maybe I’ll just be straight. It’s too stressful being gay. Is it better to be super-gay, or just kinda straight? I don’t really like wine.

Oh, no. There are scrape marks on the bottom step there, from their dolly. That’s going to be a conversation. “Excuse me, but could you be more careful moving everything I own, while I just stand here. A couple flecks of paint got scraped away. Never mind that this is your livelihood, and I have way too many shelves, and you could undo my skeletal frame with a simple flick of your wrist… It’s just that my new landlord mentioned she redid the stairs in the new house. She used the phrase ‘lovingly restored.’ So if you could maybe try not to scrape the stairs there? And I’ll stand in the corner and struggle to produce testosterone.”

I am a half-man. I should get my hair cut. I should update the software on my computer. I need to work out more, or at all. I should call my dad.

Nathan Pensky is a writer and editor living in rural Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter.