Like anyone who sets out to make the most of his or her higher education, my four years of college were primarily spent amassing a vast collection of junk.
Propped up behind the door stood my epic metal DDR pads, worn from years of serious gaming. Beside the fridge sat my 94 remaining cans of Rockstar (I’d snagged them for such a low price!). And there in the corner were the scraps of cardboard I’d saved in case I ever needed to construct more makeshift helmets for another Astrococks and Space Sluttles party.
And who could forget the box of miscellaneous cords that I could hardly discard without sowing mental discord—surely they went to something!
But now graduation was a few days past, and the overlords of residential housing would brook my presence no longer. I needed to transport all my worldly possessions across campus to my summer housing, and I only had the Zipcar for 2 hours! But even faced with this Mount Everest of a task, I couldn’t part with any of my things.
I think it’s the guilt. I spent good money on that ball of four thousand rubber bands! And I poured my time and energy into salvaging that orange rocking chair from the dumpster! I couldn’t just leave it on the street to collect rainwater again. Not after all those months spent painstakingly scraping the mildew out of it.
Guilt rules pretty much every aspect of my life. Whenever my crazy aunt Bertha would give me a fruitcake, I’d suffer through every bite; when my dad gave me a fancy (piano) keyboard, I signed up for lessons from a teacher who believes musicality is inspired by ghosts; and if I were ever given a sloth I’m sure I’d raise it, teach it important sloth skills, and release it into the wild—with some sort of tracking beacon so I could help protect it in case any sloth predators ever got near.
After psyching myself up for the impending ordeal, I went to rent my car, only to find that Zipcar had given me their finest gnome-mobile, which I’m sure was a veritable Winnebago for gnomes but was not very functional for my collection of giant ceramic birds purchased at the flea market. This was going to take some expertise.
Expertise which I completely lacked!
I know this is going to sound a little ridiculous, but I’d never packed a car before.
When I’d moved to college, my dad had done it all. He’d stuffed light bulbs into shoes to keep them safe and carefully taped posters to the windows to prevent them from getting bent. He was a master, transforming the task of packing into the most complicated game of Tetris mankind has ever seen.
As I stared into that puny, insignificant excuse for a trunk, as I thought of the overwhelming quantity of widgets and whatnots in my room, I became convinced that the packing I had seen in the past was an impossibility. My dad must have hidden a bag of holding in there! Or maybe his trunk was an entrance to Narnia.
Still, I had to try.
Trip after trip, I loaded up that car, and trip after trip, friends would conveniently realize they had other plans, satisfied that they had fulfilled their obligation. As the process wore on, I became acutely aware of my burgeoning hatred for stairs. My room was on the 3rd floor, and by my twentieth descent, my calves were aflame with the incendiary heat of sudden use after years of computer-based inactivity. I slammed my elbows into doorways, nearly tripped a dozen times, and dripped sweat over every single one of my belongings.
By the time the last trip rolled around, I regretted having ever been born. Why was I cursed with legs? The things hardly seemed to work! Why couldn’t I have been a tree or something, rooted in a single place for a lifetime? They seem happy enough, what with the growing and the xylem and the photosynthesis.
Nearly all of my friends had abandoned me at this point, and with good reason. But I still had one last bastion of muscle: Blake, the triathlete. We loaded up the trunk with the remainder of my miscellanea, excepting my most prized possession: a life-size cutout of Channing Tatum as Duke from G.I. Joe.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is my favorite movie of all time—a true masterpiece of cinema. Hot girls in tight leather, ninjas dueling in a reactor core, nanomites eating the Eiffel Tower, and endlessly quotable dialogue. And my friend even managed to snag a cutout from 7-11! Because for some reason, nobody else wanted it.
I don’t care how much grief that replica has brought me. I don’t care how often it’s caused people to question my sexuality (though after explaining that G.I. Joe is my favorite movie, people usually wish I’d just said I was gay—at least that’s something they can understand). And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve woken up screaming because Duke is staring straight at me with his eyes full of acting talent. I love that thing.
But no amount of love makes an object easier to transport. We pushed and crammed and prodded and bent, but there was just no way it was going to fit. That left us only one solution.
The cutout was wider than the roof of the car, but we positioned it as best we could. Too bad I’d already packed away everything that resembled a rope. This was going to be a balance job. Blake hopped into the passenger seat, we rolled down the windows, and we grabbed on.
That was the most miserable car ride of my life.
It was even more miserable than being driven to my first date by my mother, when we picked up the girl and my mom launched into a story about how she’d drunk a boatload of Mint Juleps during the Kentucky Derby while she was pregnant with me and was sure I’d have brain damage. Nothing like the promise of brain damage to get a girl to make out with you.
This time, however, I had no alcohol to numb the pain.
One hand clutched at the steering wheel while the other was clamped down in an eternal battle with the forces of nature itself. Every time the car went over 2 miles per hour, the wind would catch underneath Duke’s head and threaten to send him flying into the air. We did our best to keep him pinned, but his cardboardyness made it impossible for us to get any sort of grip. As our hands clammed up, it became a little easier, the sweat creating a layer of friction-inducing stickiness. But after about two minutes of this, the exertion has created so much perspiration that Duke was slipping every which-a-way.
Not to mention that half the time, the wind would suddenly shift and he’d get blown straight downward in front of the windshield, blocking any view I had of the bewildered pedestrians shocked into stopping in the center of the road.[Sam, we really need an image here to help break up all this text] [Yeah, I know, but I can’t think of anything relevant] [Me either]
I would have gone at a snail’s pace, completely ignoring the accumulating rage of the cars trapped behind me, except that we only had a few minutes before we had to return the Zipcar, and I was not about to incur their absurd overage charges. Every excruciating second further convinced me my shoulder would make a mad lurch for freedom from the tyranny of my socket, and the only music I had to comfort me was the sound Blake and my grunting, which progressed quickly into a chorus of atonal screams.
And yet we persisted, because what would Duke have done? Did he quail in the face of Cobra Commander threatening to erase his girlfriend’s mind with nanomites? Did he quit when he was captured and brought to an impenetrable base underneath the polar ice caps? Did he slow down while literally jumping through a train? No! And I would live up to his example.
And by god, we got there. We might have had to ice our arms for the next few hours, and maybe it took us a few days to fully recover, but Duke now stands proudly in my apartment, and as long as I draw breath, he will go wherever the wind takes me.