Coming Clean

I lost myself in getting there.  The houses got smaller, dinger, closer together.  Cheap businesses sprang up between them like plastic flowers: A quick cash joint.  An adult video store.  A Laundromat.  An apartment building loomed.  Trash blew across the street from an overturned garbage can.  But still I pressed on, oh virtuous me.

A man stood at the entrance of the shelter, black hat on, gold stud jammed into his nostril.  He huddled in a thin jacket against the February wind, texting one-handed.  I wondered how he got the money for that phone; wondered how he could justify the monthly expense.

I’d put what the church had asked for—drinks for 40—in the plastic bin I usually reserved for grocery shopping.  Save the earth and all that.  The man watched me struggle to lift the bin from my trunk; watched me swear as the bin smashed my fingers.  I eyed him warily as I approached the door.

“Straight ahead.”  He nodded at my donation and opened the door.

I stepped inside and looked around.  “It’s for the…” 

“I know.”

I placed the bin on a table in the foyer.

“I’ll take care of it.”  He placed a hand on each side of my bin to pick it up.  “You want this back?”

“Yeah,” I said, mentally cringing at the image of his hands on the bin. 

I followed him to the kitchen.  He opened a stainless steel refrigerator with a hand-lettered sign taped to its front: volunteers only!!  Inside were restaurant-sized jugs of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup.  There was a huge cake, too, beautifully decorated, a carton of cream smashed into its center. 

Side by side, we put the juice away. 

I picked up my bin and left.
           
I drove around the little neighborhood, trying to find a way out.  A plastic Santa Claus still stood on one front yard, grinning wildly at passersby.  A cat sat beneath a tree watching me. 

I found my way to the highway and sped towards home.  Pretty houses perched upon neat lawns at respectable distances from one other.  I drove into my clean neighborhood, my clean house, my clean fridge. 

I wondered if I’d ever get that plastic bin clean again.


Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Coming Clean

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coming Clean

I lost myself in getting there.  The houses got smaller, dinger, closer together.  Cheap businesses sprang up between them like plastic flowers: A quick cash joint.  An adult video store.  A Laundromat.  An apartment building loomed.  Trash blew across the street from an overturned garbage can.  But still I pressed on, oh virtuous me.

A man stood at the entrance of the shelter, black hat on, gold stud jammed into his nostril.  He huddled in a thin jacket against the February wind, texting one-handed.  I wondered how he got the money for that phone; wondered how he could justify the monthly expense.

I’d put what the church had asked for—drinks for 40—in the plastic bin I usually reserved for grocery shopping.  Save the earth and all that.  The man watched me struggle to lift the bin from my trunk; watched me swear as the bin smashed my fingers.  I eyed him warily as I approached the door.

“Straight ahead.”  He nodded at my donation and opened the door.

I stepped inside and looked around.  “It’s for the…” 

“I know.”

I placed the bin on a table in the foyer.

“I’ll take care of it.”  He placed a hand on each side of my bin to pick it up.  “You want this back?”

“Yeah,” I said, mentally cringing at the image of his hands on the bin. 

I followed him to the kitchen.  He opened a stainless steel refrigerator with a hand-lettered sign taped to its front: volunteers only!!  Inside were restaurant-sized jugs of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup.  There was a huge cake, too, beautifully decorated, a carton of cream smashed into its center. 

Side by side, we put the juice away. 

I picked up my bin and left.
           
I drove around the little neighborhood, trying to find a way out.  A plastic Santa Claus still stood on one front yard, grinning wildly at passersby.  A cat sat beneath a tree watching me. 

I found my way to the highway and sped towards home.  Pretty houses perched upon neat lawns at respectable distances from one other.  I drove into my clean neighborhood, my clean house, my clean fridge. 

I wondered if I’d ever get that plastic bin clean again.


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