For many years I have wanted a leather satchel. It seemed a marker of my permanent career as a scholar, an everyday, useful item which would transport what I do and who I am. A long line of canvas backpacks, fabric bags, or handled totes hauled my stuff over the years–all fine, but they felt transitory, unsubstantial, connected more to the life of an undergrad instead of a professional. Whims would switch me back and forth between navy backpack or yellow tote, from hefty red plaid bag to lavender backpack, then blue messenger bag, shuttling my folders, papers, clutch of pens and post its and jump drives from place to place.
Last year, wandering through a Fossil store, admiring all the pieces that were too expensive to hope to ever own, I sighted a beautiful leather satchel–dark brown, thick, durable leather with heavy duty zippers, three sections, and interior pockets. At $300 it was out of the question to buy, but it was not out of my head. Any time I was in a mall with a Fossil, I stopped by to visit it, to take it down from its lighted perch and hold it, check out its pockets and compartments, try its strap on my shoulder. I tried out multiple arguments that would allow me to justify buying it, but I was raised with a frugal mindset, heavy on the stingy, and a morality that shunned extravagance and excessive spending. I could not, in good conscience, give in.
So I began cheating on my Fossil ideal, looking online for cheaper versions, something that would be reasonably close to what I’d fallen in love with. Nothing compared Early in the summer, I finally found a nice leather satchel, well made and roomy, not nearly as nice as the Fossil, but tremendously cheaper, though still barely within the limits of what my midwestern frugality would allow me to indulge in.
Still, I yearned for my Fossil. In just a few weeks, I would begin a month long scholarly stint in Georgia; I began calling all the Fossil outlets that seemed somehow all clustered within Georgia, armed with the model name and number in case anyone had one in stock. Since outlet prices are sizeably below those in the regular stores, I was hoping to luck across a satchel similar to the one I loved, at a price more in my range. Finally, one outlet responded that they had a single bag–last year’s version of my Satchel of Choice. I waited for the price, squeezing my eyes shut, holding my breath, hoping to hear a figure not much over $100–a splurge still, but a price I had already justified on the basis of it being a once-in-a-lifetime purchase that would last forever. I waited, still holding my breath. And I didn’t hear the price I’d expected. I heard $40. Or I thought I did. “Excuse me?” I said. “Didn’t quite hear you.” Missed the $100 that preceded the $40, probably. “Forty dollars,” she repeated. Stunned, my mind scrambling, I asked if I could buy it over the phone with a credit card. No, she said. Could they hold it for me then, just for a few days? Yes, they could do that only until a date that was one day past my projected arrival date.
Carrying that satchel out of the store felt like the hugest financial coup I’d ever accomplished. That night, I filled the satchel with new folders, fresh Pilot pens, a new pad of Post Its, and my laptop for the archival research I was about to begin. Since then I have carried it every day to work, back and forth to my office, never once tempted to cheat on it or trade it out for one in the stack of my abandoned Previous Mates, now smashed and rejected in a plastic bin.
This satchel bears the burden now of being a symbol of my life of writing, study, and reading: well-made and lasting, its handles molded to the curve of my hands, it will carry me and the words that Ideal with until I can go no further. It will almost certainly outlast me, then begin another life with Kelsey, who understands who I am and loves words as much as I.