Friday
Aug 10, 2007
V 35 Issue 32

 
 
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Cost of the
War in Iraq
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Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
What I Mean to Say, Is . . .
Waste - by Beau Burriola

I was being berated by a homeless man.

Standing at the dumpster, with a box of junk half-poured in, I didn't expect him to walk up next to me and watch as each item fell in. Neither did I expect him to name each object as I threw it out, getting noticeably angry with each item. While I don't consider myself to have any more or less encounters with street folks as the next queer Capitol Hill dweller, and while I've learned to expect the unexpected, I certainly didn't expect this.

"Old trophy..film.. tape with some on the roll..." the man said, moving in closer with each object he pointed out. I didn't step away, although I very much wanted to; my liberal determination to treat everyone with some sort of equality kept me firmly grounded and even managing a smile. "A bicycle pump, a paintbrush, and TWO pillows?!" The last two words were shouted and bounced off two buildings next to us, reverberating the contents of my trash through the apartments of all my neighbors.

In my defense, the bike pump no longer worked, but tossing out the two pillows seemed to push him over the top. I didn't see what the problem is or what else could be done. With just two days left to whittle down all of my belongings into two checked bags for an airplane, I was could hardly afford to make any more trips to thrift stores or find owners for all of my junk. Now it was Toss Time.

"You people will throw anything out, won't you?" The man leered at me from behind squinting eyes. He was a few inches taller than me, terribly skinny, and his beard had bits of something (woodchips, maybe) in it, that made him seem more unpredictable. I chided myself for my unfair assumptions about his beard and tried to think of what I might say to his question. I wasn't sure who "you people" included besides myself, but as I was the only person there to answer for all of us, I wasn't at all sure I was ready to defend us.

"This stuff?" I asked, almost cluelessly, trying to highlight the uselessness of a couple of ancient trophies and a used bit of tape by my tone. This response only seemed to anger the man further, leading him to reach into the dumpster and pull out the tape straight away.

"You didn't even use this!" he said. I thought that an absurd remark. Of course I'd used it. I just hadn't used it all. I'm sure I meant to. If I had anything else to tape, I'm sure I would have used it up right down to the roll of the paper, which I would have used to make little paper roll dolls too, but I didn't have anything else to tape and I wasn't feeling artsy. Before I could justify the non-use of the rest of the roll, he pulled out the bike pump.

"THAT," I said quickly, "doesn't even work."

"Oh no?" he said. "Someone can make it work."

I looked at him right in the eyes. I didn't feel like I deserved this. I recycle. I use all of one thing before I start on another. I donate my clothes to thrift stores. I turn off lights when I leave the room, most of the time.

"You are welcome to it if you like," I said, no longer defending myself, "In fact, take it all! If you wait here, I'll go back into the house and get you the other three boxes and you can have those, too!"

The man in front of me changed instantly. From under his beard, a wide smile began to spread and he opened his arms out to receive his treasure. The pure delight on his face at receiving my boxes of trash was completely unfathomable to me. Suddenly our encounter was less about my waste than it was about his inheritance.

When I brought the last box outside and bid the man goodbye, he stopped me with a question.

"What's this?" the man asked, holding up a black, almost-empty bottle of Eros "body" lube.

"Moisturizer," I said, in spite of the picture of a muscular butt on the label.

"Ah..." he said, lifting his boxes and heading off around the corner.

About two minutes too late, I wondered what else I'd left in the other boxes.

Beau Burriola is a writer who, after two months of cleaning out storage rooms and the clutter of life, is determined to take good care not to take on new things. beaubrent@gmail.com
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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