MUSED Literary Magazine.
Non Fiction

The Handbag

Susan P. Blevins

Breezing my way along I-10, a few miles west of San Antonio, happily anticipating arriving home in Houston in just a few hours, foot rather heavy on the gas pedal, I was shocked out of my haze of contentment by a line of traffic blocking not just my side of the freeway, but the opposite side also. The congestion snaked away into the distance with no clue as to the cause.

After idling my engine for a few minutes, like everybody else I turned it off and got out of the car to peer into the distance. There was helicopter traffic up ahead, which perhaps spoke of a particularly nasty accident.

After more than an hour at a complete standstill, we were able to edge our way forward. The helicopter traffic increased, and was just up ahead of us. There was still no clear indication of what had taken place, except that as we were slowly filing across an overpass, I saw a solitary handbag perched on the stone parapet along the side of the road.

It was a comfortable, rather large, handbag, well used and faded, the kind of handbag that you could put your whole life in. It sat there slouched over, stark in its isolation, as though it knew what had happened, and was bereft.

The iconic image is seared into my retina forever. I knew then with inner certainty that the accident had been a terrible one, for no woman who is conscious and able to speak would ever be parted from her handbag, receptacle of her life, symbol of her identity.

I felt an unspeakable sadness as I inched my way past that lonely memorial to one anonymous woman, whose life I could only imagine. Was she the driver or a passenger? What had she been thinking about when the car went out of control? Was she a mother? A grandmother?

Her fear called out its warning to me, and I eased back my foot on the gas, sobered by what I had seen and imagined, heading for home now in a completely different frame of mind.