On Packing // Spiraling // Queerness // & COVID-19

a headshot of Anna holding her dog
Anna Sverclova
January 13, 2022

Today, I bought 5 bottles of sunscreen.
I can’t stop frantically checking the packing list // my backpack // my suitcase // the pile of
clothes I have crammed in the corner for “later”–
           & I am realizing “later” is three days away.

This is a frantic realization.

The other day, during one of our orientation Zoom sessions, one of the facilitators mentioned
that we should avoid wearing anything black or cotton. As a midwest-emo-queer, literally
everything I own is black cotton. I am having an identity crisis. Since we will be in Ecuador
(literally named for the Equator) the sun is going to hurt and I am going to sweat.
Without my flannel and beanie, who’s going to know I’m gay? How am I gonna hide the fact that I’m growing
out a mullet?

There are so many things I can’t find in Minnesota. Right now, with the snow outside and the
forecast at -18 degrees fahrenheit, I’m hard pressed to find any breathable quick-drying
warm-weather hiking pants
, or, perhaps more importantly, a pair of sandals that fit. I keep
scouring the Goodwills looking for clothes that say, I’m gay but also I’m not having a heat stroke
(which, by the way, is a very fine line) but all I can find is activewear that screams I’m forty or I
am in eighth grade again.

The other night I was looking at the syllabus for one of my classes during my study abroad, and
one of the required materials was binoculars. Binoculars? Where do people even get
binoculars? I guess I’ve always thought of binoculars as something people just had. So, I went
to the local Cabela’s and found a glass case of binoculars. Did you know that some binoculars
cost like $1500? This is all uncharted territory for me.
It felt like standing in the Walmart trying to figure out which kind of thneed to buy. You’re reading
all the Google reviews, weighing all of these pros and cons (as if you know what the words exit
or objective lens diameter mean) and thinking to yourself, dang, am I really about to drop
$300 on this pair of binoculars right now? And some guy walks up to you in a camo vest like hey
do you need some help?
And you wanna say, um, yeah, I need some help, what does any of
this mean?
But you don’t, because you want to blend in as the type of person who goes to
Cabela’s all the time, so you just pick one at random, and the guy starts opening up all sorts of
drawers, and you’re sweating because oh no what if these are the wrong kind? So, when he’s in
the back looking for the Bushnell Powerview II Compact binoculars, you just grab the cheapest
pair on the shelf behind you and leave before he can catch you.

With only three days until my flight, I am also frantically trying to get a COVID test. Yes, I am
vaccinated and boosted, and yes, I am wearing masks / social distancing / washing my hands /
picking my boogers only in private, but the fear is getting real with the new spread of the
Omicron variant. What if, somehow, I test positive the day before the flight? What if I get it in the
airport? What if, a man sneezes in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, but it makes a
sound, along with millions of aerosolized COVID monsters who scatter in through the holes in
my glass window panes and slip into my nostrils and I wake up having lost all sense of taste and

There's been a trend in my life of little emergencies popping up the minute before a trip.
This, of course, was exacerbated in the last few years by the little COVID-19 emergency & all of
the little emergencies that accompanied:
the emergency of the canceled choir trip //
                                              of CUPSI //
the small death
                      of school //
                      of independence //
the sudden reincarnation of me
as a sixteen-year-old // again frantically
depressed // a time loop // at my parents house //

I'm terrified that the world is going to end again, as it always has:
                                                                            at the very cusp of something great.

Schrödinger’s study abroad: maybe it will happen, or maybe it won’t.
This terrible, uncertain meantime is the most torturous part of all.

Even through two pandemic years, I have still not grown comfortable with having so little control.
I have no idea what Ecuador will be like. I have no idea what the plane will be like.

I have never left the country by myself before. I am anxiously rehearsing

for a performance I don’t have a script for.
The thing about writing, about art, about packing, about daydreaming, about waiting,

Is that they are endless.
You can write and rewrite your essay, research until the end of the internet, daydream about
what it will look like, how it will feel, pack and unpack and repack,

each time more efficiently & tighter & lighter & better, and the day will not come any faster

or bring any more certainly.

In some ways, though, the packing is the best part.


I feel like a child again //

in the walmart // late summer // a brand new school-supply list //

2 weeks before 4th grade // overwhelmed by erasers // folders // notecards //

new journals // pencil grips in purple glitter //

hiding in my room // packing // & repacking // my backpack // my fingers//
curling the spines of my notebooks // in longing //


When the iPod Nano came out, I'd have dreams about MP3 players. It was a completely
revolutionary idea at the time, 2005, to be able to bring music with me wherever I went.

It consumed me in wanting. I’d sit in my room and daydream about holding one in my hands,
internally planning all of the music I would put on it.

Through my mind’s eye, I would wind and rewind imagined footage of myself
walking down the sidewalk, dancing through hallways, or waiting in elevators
listening to my favorite songs. The wanting was almost better than the thing itself.

I could lull myself to sleep in excitement, or recall the daydreams of the future where I had an
iPod during the silence.

This deep wanting is how I feel about travelling to the Galápagos islands.

The only idea I have in my head is a conglomerate of secondhand-images and thirdhand-stories
I replay. It is all in sepia, a history textbook, a daydream, a photo I try to animate

in my head, like staring at a painting until the frame melts away from your mindspace.

Packing is holding onto artifacts from the future: the binoculars pre-scuffed,

my shirts pre-stained with salt. I am spinning out on the ocean, feeling the sun like hot knives
through my black cotton outfit. I am using these images to lull me safely to the airport.

It is pure ecstasy to want this deeply.
My daydreams won’t end, only spiral, only transform.


Anna Šverclová is a published poet and creative writing major at Macalester College who is spending their spring semester studying abroad in the Galápagos Islands.

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