the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Purses, Knapsacks, and Bags

An old Jewish woman crosses 83rd Street, a brown bag shlumped over her weak shoulder.

A businessman, a grey-haired fox in a tailored suit, carries documents in a black leather briefcase.

A school teacher, frantic in her step, wears her purse cross-body, tightly pulling against her chest.  Unmarried and alone, she wonders if she will ever feel a baby sucking at her breast.

Horns are honking.

“I hate New York,” thinks Mary Ellen Polanksi, a struggling media artist crossing over from the other side of the street, her arm attached to the organic tote bag she purchased in Portland.

A fat man stumbles by, his groceries bouncing in a plastic supermarket bag.  Mary Ellen Polanski gives him a look of disgust, and blames him for the world’s global warming.

A young man with long black hair and no chin, leaves Starbucks, lugging his Timbuk2 laptop bag. He knows his novel will never sell.

An Indian woman, dressed in traditional garb, holds a mustard-colored handbag which contains a packet of gum, a vibrator she used earlier this morning, and a 9mm handgun.

I sit on a bench on 83rd Street with my knapsack at my side, an old friend now ragged from years of use.  Inside is a notebook, a sweater, a letter never sent, a key to a house in New Zealand, a book I’ll never read, and a photo of her.

We all carry our own unique baggage.



  1. Josette Plank

    I’m reminded of a song…or, perhaps it’s a poem…maybe a short film, before there was Vine….

  2. Michele aka midlyfemama


  3. Linda Roy - elleroy was here

    An island full of untold stories.

  4. Tanya

    I love to people watch, I like to make up a story of thier life and wonder how far from the truth it is or if Im close 🙂

  5. Erykah

    I’ve got too many bags. I need to choose one and wear it.

  6. Elizabeth Aquino

    I took one of my closest friends, visiting Los Angeles to hold the hand of her dying sister-in-law, to lunch the other day as a break. Afterward, we wandered around Bergamot Station, a cool art gallery in Santa Monica. She bought me a bag and she bought herself one exactly like it. They were expensive, but she said, “Why not? We need twin baggage. We’ll think of one another when we carry them.”

    I loved this post — small mindful moments that carry something huge.

  7. Marcy

    I really, really love this post. Makes me want to sit inside your head while you people-watch.

  8. Irish Gumbo

    At the back of my closet, an old, black leather satchel with tape on one clasp to hold it closed. The flap stiffener, a piece of sharp metal, pokes out of a hole in the lining. It used to jab me in the arm nearly every time I carried it. That has been over two years ago.

    Inside are some crumpled papers, a pen or two and the remains of career I may never take up again. I had to put it somewhere.

    Great story, Neil. Liked this very much.

  9. Jules

    Beautiful. Reads like the beginning of a great short story. Not that your post is unfinished but it left me wanting more.

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