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Trash Can Enlightenment

Full, Empty, or Somewhere in Between

I jam my empty sugar-free Red Bull can into it anyway. The wet metal screeches against the styrofoam packaging of my father’s things that I had unwrapped yesterday.

The satisfaction of shoving something so solid into a space that was assumed to be too full fades like smoke from a Marlboro.

It irks me, how something so plain, boxy, and gray can fill up so easily, when I feel so empty in my bright blue shirt and orange sandals.

One time my dad wore bright purple pants to a client meeting because he thought they were navy blue.

Colorblindness is a bitch, but that’s not why he ran red lights.

I eye the flimsy off-brand trash bags and think about stretching and pulling them apart like tasteless, joyless taffy.

Maybe I’ll scream.

I don’t.


Saturday, April 3rd 2021:

I have 12,097 unread emails alone in my primary gmail inbox.

Most are from bots or something equally fake. Who even sends real emails anymore? I remember when AOL had that awful catchphrase ‘You’ve got mail’.

I'd get excited, I admit it.

While my mother took to new tech like an f1 driver would a chicane, my father never could quite navigate it.

Yet, to his credit, he was always first in line to try.

His first PC was a Packard Bell that ran Windows 3.1. Pretty OG.

The last message I got from him was in mostly caps with emojis tangled in the letters. It read like a gen-z ransom note, which suited our conversation style better than I expected.

I still have him pop up as a secondary connection in LinkedIn.

He's sporting a gray suit in his photo, but not the same gray as my trash can.

I’m wearing a yellow graphic T with the words “It’s the kind of tired that sleep doesn’t fix” scrawled on the back.

Those words are more real than any I’ve received in an email in a long while.


Monday, April 4th 2022:

I live in a shared flat now, so it’s not my gray trash can, it’s our trash can.

And our trash can is full, but it's really only like 33.33 percent my fault.

We’re causing this waste together. We’re creating and destroying as a unit. Inside our trash can is dark from coffee grounds and burnt bread, but glints from sugar-free red bull and coke-zero cans.

Maybe I made more of this trash than I want to admit. Maybe I’m first on the leaderboard. Maybe I’ve won something.

I could put that on my LinkedIn.

I still feel empty, but it’s a shared emptiness, like our shared trashcan is a shared fullness.

I have on a hazard orange sundress to hold a match against the encroaching darkness.

I debate going out to be seen.


I put on my father’s and my favorite movie, Independence Day.

Happy Birthday Dad, you would’ve been the big 70.

Hey life, Up Yours.


Wednesday, April 5th 2023:

Someone smarter than me once wrote, grief is just love with nowhere to go.

I read that while listening to Nirvana.

Drain You is my favorite song. I like it when they say the part about chewing meat. It’s visceral, true, bloody, and human.

Like enlightenment should be, but maybe that’s why no one quite gets there. I don’t think Kurt Cobain got close and well, the name of his band sure is self explanatory.

I drain my sugar-free red bull and go to our trash can.

When I press my foot on the lever and the lid pops up as it should, I grin.

I relish the little victories.

The trash can is only half-full or half-empty or however else you want to describe it. I drop the can in and it hardly makes a sound.

My dad used to insist on getting those fancy drawstring trash bags after one leaked across the linoleum. He felt personally betrayed by the cheap bags because he always had his house immaculate and just-so.

In fact, the only time he wasn’t crisp and put together was in a vacation rental house at the beach.

He’d even rock a goofy T-shirt from a nearby restaurant out in public.

I’m wearing one of those T-shirts from Key West Florida and blue basketball shorts I pilfered from a friend.

Our trash can is still gray.

I only feel half empty.

Maybe ‘real world enlightenment’ is a skill in LinkedIn.

Hey LinkedIn, Up Yours.

Power in Numbers




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