Taking Out the Trash with Mr. Garbagehands
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
“Arghhhh, fuck!” Mr. Garbagehands cried out.
He stubbed his toe on the coffee table again.
He does this all of the time.
His house is riddled with trash, and he never watches his step in his drunken stoopers.
He manages to keep his trash in trash bags, but he never brings himself to take any of it out to the curb to be taken away.
He sat down on his couch and stared at his toe.
“I hate you, toe.” he said.
His toe throbbed.
His head throbbed.
His heart throbbed.
He looked at all of the trash piling up in his apartment.
He couldn’t remember the last time his home didn’t feel like a wasteland.
In fact, it’s gotten so bad he feels unable to bring any company over.
Last time he did, it didn’t end well.
They brought their trash in too, and it became too much for the both of them.
Their mess became a place.
Mr. Garbagehands lives in his waste. He can’t bring himself to take any of out to the curb.
Mr. Garbagehands is sad.
Everyone knows it but him.
His friends make light of his belligerent escapades, but deep down they know he’s sad.
They've tried to come over, but he doesn’t let anyone in.
He feels that no one will understand all of the trash he can’t take to the curb.
His trash is the only company he keeps close.
The trash has become all too encompassing to give up, to the point where he finds comfort within it.
His trash is his only anchor to who he is.
Without his trash, with a clean apartment, what would he do?
Who would he be?
“There’s so much trash in here.” he murmured under his breath.
His phone rang. He leaned over to grab it off the coffee table.
“Mom.” he said. “What the fuck does she want?”
He tossed it back down and let it go to voicemail.
The ringtone chimed on annoyingly, but not enough to do anything about.
Silence. Then thoughts. Then a sip of vodka. Silence.
He suddenly realized his toe stopped hurting.
He looked at his toe.
His toe looked back at him.
“The pain passes, you know?” said his toe.
This startled Mr. Garbagehands. His toe had never spoken to him before.
“What?” he said with unease.
“The pain always passes. Remember, just a few moments ago, you stubbed the fuck out of me. Got me good this time, you drunk clutz.” said the toe. "You notice now though, the pain - it passes?"
“I suppose so.” he said with raised eyebrows.
“Yes," encouraged the toe, "the pain always passes. It’s your memory of it that haunts you. It's these bags of your trash that haunt you. Why do you continue to remind yourself of your pain, Mr. Garbagehands?”
“It’s all I can think about. It doesn’t feel like it’s passed, it hangs heavy in the air. It lingers over every thought I think and every move I make. The pain has not gone away, toe.”
“You're such a silly human. The pain has gone away. Just like the pain from stubbing me is gone. You only remember what it felt like to be stubbed. But I am not stubbed right now.”
“What’s your fucking point, toe?”
“That I wish for you to remember this moment, or any other moment, instead of the ones that torture you, Mr. Garbagehands.”
Stunned, Mr. Garbagehands kept staring at his toe.
His toe was no longer speaking to him.
He wiggled it, trying to get it to say something.
Silence. Then thoughts. He watched them.
Disturbed, he leaned backwards onto the couch and placed his hands over his eyes.
Was he going mad?
Had he gone mad?
He let his fingers slide open. He stared down his nose at the garbage bags piled up all around the coffee table.
“Maybe I should move these so my dumb fucking toe won’t ever speak to me again.” he thought aloud.
He hoped if he at least cleared the trash away from the coffee table, he’d prevent stubbing his toe again; sparing himself another bitter conversation.
Inspired, he sat up and grabbed the two closest bags at his feet on his way to the door.
He set one down to grab the door handle. It slowly fell to it's side, spilling some of it's remnants onto the floor.
"No, no." he whimpered.
But not of wasted food, it smelled of wasted time.
A smell far worse than anything rotting could create.
A tear fell down his face.
This was the bag his ex left behind. In it were angry words and misunderstood feelings.
Broken memories flooded over him.
He thought of Alex.
How he missed them. Even through the angry arguments and broken promises, he missed them.
He saw Alex’s face. First smiling, then yelling, then crying.
He wondered how Alex looked now. It's been 7 years since he last saw their face.
He got down on his hands and knees. Another tear shed. Then another.
“Don't do this... stop crying.” he sobbed angrily.
He gently tossed the other bag off to the side, and began emptying the remainder of the already spilled bag onto the floor.
Horrified, he saw not only the strife of his ex-lover in the trash, he saw his, too.
He saw the hurtful things he had done.
He saw the black outs, the lies he told, and the pain it caused.
But this wasn’t the story how he remembered it.
Alex was the one who caused him pain. Alex was always the one who was wrong. The one who needed help, and control, and counseling.
Mr. Garabagehands had been refusing to see himself as the villain.
He was the victim after all.
He was the one who cared too deeply and wanted too much for them, not the other way around.
How could he be wrong?
But there it was.
He saw it.
The truth, and it wasn't pretty.
He wasn't right anymore.
He wasn't entirely wrong either.
There was just what was.
And now he could never un-see it.
Was it possible he played a role in his own suffering - in Alex’s suffering as well?
That was never a sequence in the story he told himself.
Did this make him a liar too?
Maybe we can each be villains and victims, and even simultaneously, he pondered.
Light and dark, right and wrong, good and evil are always raging within us.
He grabbed the trash and held it, wishing it was Alex instead.
“I loved you, Alex. I just didn’t know how to show you." he said through heavy sobs. "And I didn’t know how to let you love me, because maybe you didn't know how to either. And we fussed so much. We got so hung up on a lot of bullshit to avoid ever seeing one another for who we really were.”
“Who are we now, Alex?”
Mr. Garbagehands sat in his painful memories, revisiting each of them carefully.
That one sunny day at the park had been so lovely, but by nightfall they're words became violent.
That one Christmas Eve at Alex's parents, when he found the pickle ornament hiding in the tree. How whole they felt then.
The day Alex moved out, and never looked back.
How empty they felt at the end.
There were no more stories, anymore.
There was what was, and that was that.
Suddenly the weight he carried from their once loving relationship turned sour morphed into a mushy soft spot, like that on a newborn’s head.
Malleable and soft, Mr. Garbagehands felt like a kid again.
He began laughing now.
How silly grown ups are.
Spending all of their time proving their stories to themselves they don't even take time to consider the reality in front of them.
His heart ached. But with it came something he’d never seen. Clarity.
Covered in the truth of his past, he saw everything for what it truly was, not what he told himself it had been.
He brushed the trash off of him and looked towards the door in a daze. He felt drunk, but not off of the alcohol this time.
How good it felt to feel again.
That was enough trash for today.
He gathered it through the last remaining tears and placed it back in the bag.
He tied the trash handles in the best bow he could make.
He hugged the trash bag, he considered kissing it but refrained.
He slowly opened the door and took a brave step outside his place of hurt.
He whistled a tune as he skipped down the steps of his apartment.
One Alex had known and loved.
A green garbage truck pulled up right as he approached the curb.
Interesting timing, he thought.
The garbage man parked and zipped around to where Mr. Garbagehands was standing.
He was a short, fit guy with curly dark hair and light green eyes.
They were striking.
He reached his hand out to grab the trash.
Mr. Garbagehands held the bag out to him.
Together they held the bag of trash.
“Are you ready to give this up?” the garbage man asked.
Mr. Garbagehands let out one last tear.
“Yes. In there is a whole lot of pain. Make sure you don’t go digging in it.”
“I wouldn’t dream of digging through another human's trash. Not unless they wanted me to. I’ll make sure it’s disposed of properly, Mr. Garbagehands.”
The garbage man grabbed the bag and tossed it in with the other trash.
“It’s not yours to keep anymore. We’ll make sure this trash goes to a place where it can’t harm you, or anyone else anymore.” the garbage man assured him.
“Where do you take it?”
“I take it to outer space." the garbage man said smiling. "There’s a star out there where I dump all of the human’s trash. It smells awful. But it’s fiery and passionate alright. It won’t sustain itself for too much longer though; it’ll eventually explode.”
“No shit!" Mr. Garbagehands blurted out. "Is that true?”
“No," the garbage man said through laughter, "but for metaphors sake. No need to worry about where it goes. Just know I don’t allow this trash to go anywhere where it can harm anyone else. Now, that is true. No human, no animal, no life will know this pain now that you’ve given it up. You should thank yourself for that, Mr. Garbagehands.”
And just like that, the truck and the garbage man were gone.
Mr. Garbagehands felt both heavy and light.
Heavy with freedom, lighter of pain.
He knew the next day there would be more trash to sift through.
There was Mom's bag.
There was Dad's bag.
There was that asshole Nick's bag.
There were plenty of bags of his own, too.
But for what felt like the first time in his sad, garbage life, Mr. Garbagehands felt ready.
He looked up into the sky.
The sun was setting on the horizon.
He could see the burning, fiery mass in the distance, burning all of our trash.