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The Dumpster

Another Sunday Story......

I am crying and crying and crying and I cannot stop. I am on the floor. My knees are pressed into my chest and the tears are falling everywhere, soaking my face and my legs and my hands and soaking my whole life.

And I am ashamed. I cannot believe I have let myself come to this and I cannot believe I am in pieces on the floor instead of doing something about it. Maybe if I knew something other than hurt and worry and doubt then my life would not be this, these pieces on the floor. But this is all I know. This is all.

Many more minutes go by and then finally my sobbing begins to subside, loosens its grip enough for me to open my eyes, to reach across the floor for the letter. It is tear-soaked too, just like the rest of me, the awful black ink of certain words bleeding into others. I feel like I am bleeding too and I feel like no one can understand and no one knows. No one knows this kind of pain and loss. And then the shame rises even higher, taunts me with so much loneliness and grief.

Normally I would keep a horrible piece of paper like this, read it over and over again to remind myself of how little I am worth, but this time I don’t. This time I begin shredding it into dozens of pieces and then dozens more and then more and more until it looks nothing like the eleven by eight inches of heartache that was slipped into my mailbox.

I pull myself up off the floor and this simple act takes so much out of me that I begin again to cry as I go to the hall closet and get the vacuum cleaner. When it is in my hands I think that it feels too small. I think that it is not sturdy enough to pick up all of this, such a massive mound of anger and fear.

Only seconds later though, the pieces are gone. They are resting inside the canister and I can see them. It is like they are taunting me, threatening to put themselves back together so that I can read all of those awful words again, and they remind me suddenly of that Christmas, the one when I was thirteen and there was nothing under the tree for me but a note. It was on the same white paper with the same black letters and it said the same things about loneliness and regret and so much fucking fear.

Before I know what I am doing I’m yanking the canister off the vacuum and I am walking out the back door of my apartment and across the parking lot to the dumpster. I open it up and I toss the entire canister inside. I don’t know why. I just do. Maybe I think it’s contaminated now. It will never be free of that white paper with its mean black letters and so the whole thing has to be thrown away.

But then just as quickly I don’t know why I did that and I feel stupid and guilty and I think I have to get it. So I open the dumpster. I get way up on the tips of my toes and I look over. I see it resting there, that container full of rotten words, sitting beside the garbage bags bulging with waste and the broken toys that nobody loves anymore.

Wildly I reach in. I reach and reach but it is too far from my grasp. Just like so many things. It is too far from my grasp. So I try to pull myself up, thinking that I can hang part way into the dumpster and reach the canister that I have foolishly thrown away, but it hurts my ribs too much. It just hurts too much so I lower myself back to the pavement and I make a terrible sound. I shriek in a way that is full of shock and self-loathing and then I grab my hair in my hands and look around. I don’t know what I am looking for but I find a metal crate and suddenly I am standing on it and reaching into the dumpster again, hanging over this pit full of trash and stench, trying to fix yet another mistake.

And then suddenly the canister is in my hands. I am opening it up. I am dumping all of its contents, watching hair and fabric and dirt and tiny white pieces of paper with remnants of bold black letters on them. I am watching it all cascade into the pile and I am waiting.

But of course it doesn’t come. If I have learned anything, it’s that the relief just doesn’t come.

I drop the lid of the dumpster then and step down from the crate. The canister of my vacuum cleaner dangles from my fingers and I look down to see that I’ve gotten black marks all over my shirt and pants and I begin to think about how pathetic I am, but then I hear a whimper. It is a sad sound that is so mournful and pleading and lost that it hits me in the depth of my stomach, sends waves of sorrow through me. I look up.

A small, matted, sorry looking dog is staring at me. He whimpers again. It is that same pleading, mournful, sad sound that at first I thought was my own.

I’m stunned, trying to make sense of this creature suddenly in front of me. He is witnessing all of my pain and seeming to suffer from much of his own too, seeming to call out to me for help with that.

I sit down on the crate, the one I just used to hang myself over the dumpster. I don’t have any plan. I just sit down because I am tired and unsure and curious. The dog walks toward me. His tail is low and his head is low and he looks like all of the sadness I have ever felt. Ever.

I think he is going to come right to me and I want him to and I don’t want him to and I am scared, but I am hopeful as well. I am hardly thinking anymore of the canister full of paper and ink. Suddenly this seems bigger.

And then all at once he stops. He stops walking toward me and he looks around. Perhaps he is considering his options and maybe I am not looking like the best one, but I would like to be. I would like to be someone this small, matted, sorry looking dog can trust. Maybe if he can do that then I can too. Maybe.

“Come here, sweetie,” I whisper. “I won’t hurt you. I know how it feels. I know.”

He looks back. I imagine that he is considering the streets he came in from. It was probably so dark there and he was alone and cold and without enough. Maybe he is wondering if as bad as it is out there, at least he knows it. At least he knows. Maybe he is wondering if it is better to expect very little or to hope for something more.

I am wondering that too.

And then he turns back to me and slowly he begins moving and then finally his nose is at my knees and I move them apart and he steps into me. He just steps right in and he puts his weary head on my leg and I close my knees again and hug him to me and he lets me do this. He whimpers quietly and lets me hold him and I do the same thing.

Sitting in front of a dumpster full of words I do not want, I whimper quietly and let him hold me too.

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