I’ve had nothing to say since the plague began. No comment on the quarantine. It’s all anyone’s talking about, but for me, nothing’s changed, except my housekeeper won’t come. I have extra garbage, not much garbage—a modest amount of garbage—but give it a week or two.
The garbage will come.
It’s funny no-one’s asked me for advice. No-one’s come asking how to live this way, how to stand it. (I wouldn’t know, anyway. I’d say let go of things one by one. Mourn chance encounters, mourn the sea, mourn the scrape of your soles in the dirt. Watch your toes spread apart over decades spent shoeless. But do that in the background. In the foreground, fill your gaps. Fill your time, fill your pantry, fill…whatever’s empty. That’s all you can do.)
I have three bags of garbage and one tray of leftover food. I can’t get rid of the food because my, ah…sink-mouth, rubbish-chomper…what do you call it, that thing in your sink, and it chews up your garbage…. Is there a word for that, other than “garbage disposal”? Anyway, that’s died. I’m refrigerating my leftovers to prevent…infestation.
I once had a landlord who hated to fix things. He hated to be responsible. He kept his own father in a room with a fridge and an air mattress, two floors above mine. I know this because the old man’s power went out and he knocked on my door. He didn’t speak English, but he showed me his light switch, which didn’t do anything, and his fridge, which was full of rotten food. I couldn’t reach my landlord, so I called the power company. Paying the bill seemed the quickest solution. But my landlord, my fucking landlord…he’d given me a fake name. Nothing could be done.
That was a long time ago. I don’t remember how the situation was resolved. But that was the sort of landlord he was, the sort of man he was. It’s important to know that, because one day, my key fob broke. I could get out of the building, but I couldn’t get back in, and after a quick shoeless garbage run that turned into a freezing two-hour lockout, I …stopped taking the dust out.
I kept calling him. I kept leaving messages. I left despairing messages. He ignored them. Months went by.
Did you know maggots, or their casings, dry up and fall on the floor, and they look and sound like uncooked rice?
i had a small room by the front door, a room I never used. I’m not sure what it was meant for, but it had a big window looking out on the living room, and that window went black with Hefty bags, a wall that grew and grew. You hear about trash piled to the rafters, but it never really is. No kid’s so piggish. No janitor’s so negligent. But I had to stand on a chair to fit more garbage. I had to cram it right in, all the way to the ceiling. It leaked. It stunk. It brought ants and bluebottles. I woke up with flies drinking my tears.
The weather got warmer in the end. It got safe to be locked out. I suppose it always was—Vancouver’s not so cold. But that first time, it was winter. I had no shoes. No-one would let me inside. I was haunting the door, flashing my fob (hey, let me in! I live here!), but my neighbours turned their backs. One man, I was getting impatient—I tried to follow him anyway—but he pushed me back out. My feet went blue.
The garbage was horrible, but…I don’t know. I suppose when there’s a choice, and both options seem awful, it’s easiest to do nothing.
(I didn’t exactly do nothing. I brought bags down a few times. I put my hand out. Tested the air. It was always too cold. One time, I threw a bag into the courtyard. Nobody saw me, but fifty bags seemed…inconsiderate. I couldn’t do that.)
The smell wasn’t as bad as you’d think, in terms of…it didn’t seep out to the hall. It stayed in my flat, probably because I couldn’t afford to turn on the heat. It never made my eyes water, but it was always there. It got on my tongue. It…insinuated itself into my tastebuds and wouldn’t come out. I kept tasting it after the weather turned, after the garbage was gone. I tasted it into spring. I licked gyoza sauce from the bottle just to taste something else.
Sometimes, the smell made me hungry, in a funny sort of way. It was a heavy smell, a green smell, like old bok choy and vinegar.
Most of the time, the smell made me not want to eat.
Once in a while, it made me not want to live.
None of that will happen now. I have options. I can pay someone to take out the trash. I can put it in my wheelchair and go looking for the skip. I can…throw it off the balcony? (Maybe not.)
There won’t be a wall of garbage.
Not this time.