The Outside Trash


I wake up. The first thing I see through sandy eyes is the light coming in between the blackout curtains. My heart has been on the stair master, but I’m not moving. I open my phone hoping to see what? I don’t know. I need to get up. I bury my mind in videos of cute animals, dogs saying “I love you,” cats finding their way home after being lost for years, goats. I know I need to shower. I know I do. I just… can’t. I can’t make myself get up, get going, get over it, whatever “it” is. I wait ’til the last minute, until I have only enough time to wash the spaces my dog likes to stick her nose in. What goes through her mind? “Oh, nice lady smell sad. I hope she still will play wif me.”

It’s 20 degrees and the sun is a rude party guest. I have made a mistake in not getting up. My son hates socks. “They bunch,” he whines. “Just get them on, you little shit.” I say. I replace “you little shit” with “sweetie.” He has no idea.

It’s odd to sweat when you are cold, when you are still, when you cannot identify the why. The smell. It’s… I stretch my collar out just to confirm that it smells as bad as it usually does and sniff the tips of my fingers. That smell is not me. It’s the other me.

I zip my coat. Fuck why won’t this thing zip up. Come on. Fuck. Come. ON. A lady wearing a sweater that matches her dog’s tries not to make eye contact, but I see it. I see her judgement, unspooling like a typewriter ribbon. She’ll text her mom friend, the one whose children carry bento box lunches every day. Another layer of shame when I’m already overdressed.

I drive but it doesn’t feel like driving, it feels like waiting in line. The trees are naked and grey. Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life… I wander back to the mid ’80s. I lost so many things between ’85 and ’90, innocence, people, illusions. My son bounces on each beat, “Are we gonna let the Now and Later break us down? Oh no, let’s go!”

I drop him off with his grandmother. I should be more grateful. I should. I drive to the end of the block. The tick tock of my blinker signals right. I go left. I can’t go right today. I know I said I would, but I can’t. I turn off the radio. Drive home. Put on the alarm. Crawl into my bed. Under the covers, my heart is still on the treadmill. The tears wash the sand from my eyes.

For the next few hours I lie. I lie to my friend who I was supposed to meet for lunch: “I’m suddenly nauseous. Raincheck?” I lie to my therapist, “I cannot come tonight. Something has come up.” I lie to myself, “This is the last bag of cookies I’m ever going to eat.”

For a few minutes after every sleeve is empty and only crumbs rattle in the bag, I’m calm. I walk the evidence to the outside trash. No one ever looks in there.

6 thoughts on “The Outside Trash

  1. Your sequence of actions says so much more about how you feel than any words could. We’ve all had sock moments, feeling desperate to get out the door. I loved the way you held it together for your son, while you were falling apart inside. I thought the title was very effective at both drawing attention to that moment in the story and also as metaphor.

    Liked by 1 person

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