Trail of Dumpsters

by Mark Hahn

trail_of_dumpsters-8I wanted to take my young son out to breakfast before his big musical theater performance. It was one of those father/son moments that is really nothing big, but feels like it is—$2.99 breakfast specials. It’s the kind of thing my grampa would do with me when I was young.

As I held the restaurant door open so we could go inside, I found myself looking around the back of the building at the scrubby desert landscape—it was strewn with dumpsters and neglect. Somehow, no matter where I go in life or where I am, I’m always drawn to places like these.

Maybe it’s the loneliness that fills these places that no one wants to go—the places most people want to forget exist. Maybe it’s just a nice place to go and be alone. Maybe it’s the possibility of a metaphoric action where I can symbolically dump all the stuff that I’d like to forget—have it hauled away by someone else. I’ve got plenty of stuff to fill these dumpsters with.

After I dropped my son off at the theater, I returned to walk this trail of dumpsters. A homeless man whose eyes were as dark and menacing as pits of pure sorrow stepped out and crossed my path. He confronted me both physically and verbally. His words were completely incomprehensible. I don’t know what he wanted. Maybe he was just angry at the whole goddamned world. I didn’t flinch as I walked past him. I felt as firmly in my own world as he was in his.

Sometimes the things you put out are never hauled away. They lie there and rot. You somehow can’t let them go. You somehow can’t walk away from them. You find yourself going back over and over again looking for something new in them. Sometimes you put chairs under the trees so you can just sit and think.

Maybe we’re drawn to the comfort of the known, no matter how bad it is. Maybe it’s just something that we have to show our respects to—like a private moment when you close your eyes and ask a dead loved one’s spirit to know you haven’t forgotten them and that they still mean a lot to you. We all hold things inside that make us cry—our own little pits of sorrow.

When I watched my son singing and dancing in his performance later in the day, I didn’t think about what should be thrown into the dumpsters. Thankfully, we don’t always have to wrap our anger and sorrow into tattered bags and drag them around with us everywhere we go, like the homeless man was doing when he crossed my path with his bag of aluminum cans and rags.