The Ritual of the Dump

The trash collectors do not come to Pop Pop, he goes to them. His street is too small for a garbage truck and also Pop Pop loves to have another to-do. I’ve only been to the dump a handful of times. I’ve lived with Pop Pop on two separate occasions and we must’ve gone then. And another time when I lived with Pop Pop and he was out of town, I had friends from work come over and we made burgers and drank beer and smoked all the fun things and the next day I went to the dump to discard any trace of fun that was had in Pop Pop’s absence.

Pop Pop is a very particular person. He has a certain way of doing things and it’s best to stay out of the way until commanded. This box there. These cans here. We load it into the trunk and it stinks. We’ve been eating a lot of seafood. There are maggots on the trash lid. My hands are itching to be washed.

We get in the car and go. I drive, an unspoken rule we agreed upon summers ago because Pop Pop is getting old. I drive carefully, careening smoothly so as not to jostle Pop Pop or the wine bottles in the trunk. We get to the dump and Pop Pop hands me two dollars and recites my script: one bag of trash, no receipt. I do as I’m told. The woman at the gate of the dump is friendly and we smile at one another. As I’m asking him how I performed, Pop Pop barks to turn right, follow that car. I do as I’m told.

He has me back into a parking spot; shimmy up close to the chute that we throw the trash bag in, so he doesn’t have to walk far. The trash pile our bag will be joining is a disgusting mess and I am in awe. There is another family doing their weekly dump as well. No words are exchanged; we mean business. Pop Pop moves us along to the next attraction.

We cruise around the corner to the place for recyclables. Pop Pop instructs me to take the clear glass to one stand, the green glass to another stand, and tin cans to the third stand. There is a man behind a fenced off area, retrieving the empty wine bottles as I roll them onto the platform. He wears gloves and smashes bottles to the ground behind him. I am jealous and I wonder if he enjoys the ritual too. I go to share a smile, thinking of him being able to tuck his frustration of the day into the slim neck of the empty red wine bottle and then smashing that shit onto the ground. He’s busy though, no smiles to be had.

And with that we are done. We come home; put away the empty recycling bins. I offer to wash out the trash bin because of the maggots. Pop Pop doesn’t understand why I bother — they’ll die soon. I do it anyway. I had maggots in my first apartment in Los Angeles and I am haunted to this day.

We leave the trunk open to let the stench air out. Pop Pop goes to the kitchen to futz around, I go to my bedroom to do the same. I come here, to this page, futz around with the idea of trash, discarding unwanted objects or rather unneeded. Pop Pop is not only a recycler but also a reuser. He only discards the unneeded.

In the past 2 decades of my life I have shed skin recklessly, yanking it off like a sweater I’ve taken into in the dressing room that is all wrong. Get off, get me out. I’ve tossed out my selves like the trash in the chute. At the dump, Pop Pop didn’t even bother to tie up the trash bag, just let it topple into the rest of the mess. And so did I, for so long. Just get it away from me. Any and every bad choice bad friend bad day. I chucked it angrily into the rest of the mess.

But I’m older now. Mid-twenties! And I feel newer now. I feel like I’m cruising to the recyclables and gently letting go of what is unneeded. I am looking at each piece of self that no longer serves. I am holding it up to the light — clear glass or green glass. I am inspecting it, I am letting it go. I don’t get to smash it to bits and sometimes I’m sad for that, but it’s unnecessary. I’m letting the shining old parts of me roll away and it feels good. Maybe even better than smashing the glass to the ground. There’s no clean up, there’s no pain, just relief. And then I move on, drive home, air out the stench of a self gone bad, and go to my room to reflect and write an essay comparing my life to a dumpster but in a really lovely way.

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