Trash Man

I didn’t expect seeing all of my belongings out on the street to be so weird. It’s only a studio apartment, so I figured it would be smaller. But after they busted down my bookshelves, scattered their contents on the sidewalk, tossed my futon over them, broke my instruments into several pieces (which, that was just spiteful), it was easy to see all that I had, everything I had ever owned and considered somewhat part of my being, as just a giant mound of trash. I had thought more of myself. Then again, I was also being forcibly removed from my apartment, so maybe the trash analogy was accurate.

The sun was bright and oppressive, a scorching L.A. summer day. I sat down on the uneven futon balanced on mounds of books and found no solace in the skinny palm trees. There was an aggressive lack of shade. The potential tasks overwhelmed my brain—how would I gather everything up? Should I? Should I welcome my forced new beginning, leave my phone right there on the cushion, and wander off down the busy streets? If everything around me was trash, perhaps I should just shed all of it. I began to make myself believe the ultimate freedom was freedom from possessions. You can’t throw away—you can’t waste—what isn’t there.

Wiping increasing sweat from my forehead, I caught the eye of some other tenants leaving the building. I could see it in their eyes. They wanted me gone. It appeared I had been unwelcome in my own building for some time. How can you be disliked by people who don’t know you? But I suppose that is the whole history of the world. Many of these books thrown onto the grimy streets would tell me the same. Maybe they see the result and assume it was because I had a drug problem, or I was a freeloader, or I was disrupting the neighbors. They bought into the adage that destitution in material equals decrepitude of the soul. The eviction is proof that the eviction is just. So, too, will be my shirt when it is stained with sweat, my socks when they gather too much dirt, and my face when it is burned and thirsty.

As I watched another couple from my building walk away after stopping for a quick moment to leer at me, another person sat down on the futon. He had a giant backpack stuffed to bursting. I could smell him, and he could smell me, I’m sure. He reached down and picked up a copy of Death on the Installment Plan, which I’d bought but never read, and opened it. After thumbing through a few pages, he turned to me. That sunburned face I was just imaging, wrinkled from squinting and cringing for years, nodded and asked if I wanted some water. He removed a beaten-up plastic bottle form the side of his bag. I took a long sip, ashamed of using so much of his supply.

“This your stuff?” He asked.

“Used to be,” I said as a police SUV pulled up next to the two of us.

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