Some people put their garbage in a bag and take it out to the bin. Others put it in a bag and take it to an abandoned lot and bury it, or if they’re in a hurry, just toss it over the fence. Thanks to these people I get to see what the inside of a garbage bag full of garbage looks like after 15 years.
What I see is always the same: dirt with chunks of metal, glass, and plastic in between. The metal looks the most natural–it’s often mistaken for a root or a worm. Glass maintains its integrity, its form, unless some joker smashed it first, not an uncommon occurrence. It’s the plastic that drives me nuts. Little shards, smaller than my fingernail, calling attention to themselves with their bright colors pink green and blue. The only way to get it out is to pick it up between two fingers. I’ll be picking up these little useless pieces for years.
In the last week I removed about 150 bags of garbage and recycling. Fortunately there’s a garbage bin and recycling bins very close. Inventory: 3 cigarette butts, 1 condom and 1 needle, both used, 100 aluminum beer cans, 50 plastic bottles (juice, soda), 5000 beer bottles. I’ll let you draw conclusions about what this might reveal about my neighborhood.
She: What are you doing, lady?
On my bicycle, I can carry two bags of garbage at a time. The neighbors must think I’m crazy, but so far only one person has said anything. She was in her 50s, dark purple hair, dog. This is how it went. I think. (My Polish isn’t very good.)
She: What are you doing?
She: In the garden?
Me: Yes. It’s very dirty.
She: [Satisfied? Says nothing.]
Me: [Keep walking.]
Anyway, the garbage is of the dumped variety; that is to say it didn’t accumulate gradually, but rather was dumped here in bursts. Digging through it I start to reflect on the devastation and destruction of materiality. Everything ripped to shreds. Japan was just hit by an earthquake and tsunami and I’m thinking: all of Japan looks like this działka. Obviously the destruction of human beings is devastating, but I keep thinking about all the non-living matter that has been reformed and reorganized so carefully and purposefully, and then ends up as so many useless little bits. It’s amazing to me that it’s the living things that end up as useful bits; that is to say, as soil.
I put all the big useless bits, the ones that are heavy and awkward, and set them aside. I don’t when I’ll have the strength to move them.
The leftover leftovers