You drag the blue recycling crate to the curb. When you’re at work, the big truck comes collecting. Shrill hydraulic brakes. A robotic arm snatches, lifts and shakes. Everything shatters into a million loud pieces.
Speculations surface. Then, they’re confirmed. On a Saturday night, you’re braless underneath an oversized t-shirt and grey Champion sweatpants. Your fingers peel the skin off the garlic. As NPR regurgitates the daily headlines, the clean female voice of weekend newscaster Lakshmi Singh explains. Federal dollars reimburse the cities for the collection of recycling, but Congressional legislation is silent on disposal requirements. So, the loophole allows cities that collect recycling to dump it in the landfill and still receive federal funding.
You feel like the bottoms of your stained sweatpants: limp fabric and tired elastic, each leg deflated at the knee.
Your city, your county and your state are all complicit. The paper, glass and plastic that you so neatly separate—your proud contribution to the fragile ecological future—gets trashed. All of it compacted, crunched and dumped into the landfill. All of it a fraud. The cans of peach-pear La Croix, folded boxes of Yogi Tea, Fage 2% Greek Yogurt containers, cans of El Paso black beans, La Preferida Authentic refried beans, coconut milk, newspapers, junk mail— all of it—packed inside a gaping hole underneath the planet’s skin.
Like you, your apartment is very small. And because it’s late September, the dark seeps in. You dress up dinner. The black beans glisten under sautéed garlic and caramelized onions and crimini mushrooms. You shake yellow flakes of nutritional yeast on top of it all. You drizzle a red Pollock swirl of Sriracha. You indulge. Stuffed, you gulp audibly from a glass of clouded tap water.
You’ve texted your two closest friends, your mom, and your sister. No one replied. Eyes sagging, you’re tired and ready to sleep. And since the bathroom sink still won’t swallow, even after the grey bottle of Draino, you wash your face in the kitchen. You lather cracked hands in Dr. Bronners 100% certified organic and fair trade magic soap. You scrape dead skin from behind your ears.
Grasping blindly for your glasses, you prick your finger. You forgot to rinse and recycle the dinner’s spent can of black beans. The can’s gnarled metal lips bit your finger. Instead of attending to it, with Band-Aid or cold water, you ignore the pain. You plunge the vibrating toothbrush dabbed with toothpaste into the stream of tap water. You grit your teeth, and pull the electric toothbrush to your face. You see the dark red eddies swirl out from the tip of your pointer-finger. Slack-jawed, you stare down at the jagged rim. Looking out the window above the stainless steel sink, you see the street. The sun collapsing into the horizon, embers snuffed out like a cigarette flicked into a wet pavement. You flick the toothbrush on, covering the window in flecks of foam and spit and blood.
Before becoming a writer, Ryan Loveeachother worked as a human rights attorney, dishwasher, yoga instructor, food truck fry cook, and Christmas tree salesman. Born in Connecticut, he now resides in Georgia with his wife and cat. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Culture Counter, Potluck, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Good Men Project, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Slink Chunk Press and Canyon Voices Literary Magazine.