No one is coming to take you away. Little pool noodle in pock marks. Busted boogie board, creased down the waist. Deflated unicorn, crying iron tears of muddy residue; no one was ever going to take you away.
It’s a wet folded sign like so many of this clean spring herd. They swamp curbs and alleys, atop waterlogged stereos and gash-scuffed ski boots. But this wilting sharpie on economy printer paper sign — with its folded front fifth covering the P as well as the T below — has caught my attention.
I wonder on my wander. This, on my daily smidgen of exercise in isolation. Who, under the circumstances, would take such detritus off your hands, dear neighbour? There’s a pandemic on, don’t’ch ya know? For that matter, who would take your used trash under regular circumstances? And while I’m at it, I may as well ask, why would anyone lease an ache? Or is your lease causing you ache? Everyone knows leases can be a pain but why advertise the fact on your front lawn? Couldn’t you be bothered at all to spell it out correctly? “AKE,” did you mean ache, or to exclaim a comic, “ach!”? Although I suspect, given the pile under sign, you likely meant “PLEASE TAKE,” I have no way of confirming my suspicions. I can’t touch your sign any more than I can touch your junk! There might be a P and an accompanying T under that first folded fifth of soggy paper, but I simply can’t risk closing the two meters between it and me. This annoying novel coronavirus could be everywhere and anywhere. So why, dear neighbour, would you want to unload your burden at the risk of burdening strange passersby?
Consumerism doesn’t discriminate any more than a new virus does. By which, I mean it makes life harder and deadlier the poorer you are. We artists really aren’t known for our wealth. And, as artist in an attempt to stave off starvation, I’ve been known to adorn my home with the LEASE AKE’s and REE TUFF’s across this neighbourhood. From the grand entryway mirror that makes the small one bedroom apartment I have claim to, and cling to, seem infinitely bigger in its tightest corner; to my partner’s grand desk, complete with rolly and slidy bits and bobs that undulate every which way to accommodate whatever might be worked on at the time; to just about every shelf and end-table holding, under hard strain, endless mounting books, puzzles, board games, and tchotkes. How could I be opposed to such an offering then? Pandemic aside, shouldn’t I revel in the upkeep of this grand system of suckling the bones discarded from the rich? Pandemic present, shouldn’t I be glad consumerism’s greatest side effect is being maintained at all? Beggars can’t be choosers after all.
It’s garbage though; it’s garbage that could be contaminated! There has to be a line, there has to be a point where what’s being put on the front lawn goes from, “this garbage could be useful to someone else,” to “this is just plain old garbage-garbage.” Then again, maybe this is just part of the intangible ever-faster-approaching “new normal” I’m told will be here tomorrow. Thrift store drop-boxes are closed, use your front lawn to take care of spring cleaning excrement. Like the tanager couples I pass on these walks; countless dates on either end of every park bench, chastity belts not required. Like the sets of friends I see jogging, beyond arms reach each, taking up an entire path made for bicycles, roller blades, wheelchairs, walkers, and yes, joggers too. Like everything else, like everyone else, a little lie whispered makes everything new seem normal with haste.
I walk away from this mess. Left to rot, like its previous owners, I choose to see it as it was always doomed to be, someone else’s problem. Someone else’s colourful foam and vinyl and polyester to pick at, to preen, and eventually, most likely to fill land. This pile is not unique. House to house here, every other has a pile of their own making. The offerings are getting worse the longer this crisis stays with us. More disease, less money, closer to a recession, closer to a depression; the junk piles are ceaseless, but the worth they offer diminishes in quality.
Rain and sun on paper, rain and sun again, rain, rain, rain, and finally the sun to dry and crinkle that paper over anew. Sharp black-inked words become smudges, smudges become blurs, and then the saggy white economy floor falls from beneath. In days, shreds are all that will remain on these well fed lawns. In days after, those miniature pastures will be swept clean, or mowed down, or wiped off by hydraulic machinations in the night. No one is coming for you smart noodle light of brain, broken board of body, stained unicorn drained of blood. No one is coming for you as you fade your once beautiful bright colours. But I promise you will disappear by the time I finish walking away.