My next-door neighbor lives in the teetering two-story house that looks like castoff plywood from Home Depot, glued together and whitewashed, with window units plopped into the sides at random, and then split up into three separate apartments. She seems friendly, she’s attractive, and she’s a welcome black face in a neighborhood that often lacks them (other than the security guards in their 15-mile-an-hour white cars, other than me).
I’m beginning to hate her.
Trash gets picked up on our streets on Tuesdays and Fridays, with recycling pickup every other Friday. Granted, the exact time of pickup is fluid—after lunch on some days, as the sun sets on others, with a sleep-destroying clatter at 6:30am on others—so most folks on the block get their trash to the curb on the night before. Tasha (not her real name) never seems to get it right. Her white bags never make it to the curb until the afternoon of pickup day, or she puts them out on Wednesday morning, so we’re stuck looking at them (and smelling them) for two days. In the case of raked leaves and major yardwork debris, I understand putting trash out early. Otherwise, it’s not that hard to leave your bags in your trashcan, and then drag that out on the night before pickup.
Of course, Tasha doesn’t have a trashcan. Initially, she did, but it seems to have disappeared. So, individual bags go out on the curb, one after the other. That’s not great—I’m about to explain why—but it wouldn’t be so bad if she’d put her bags in front of her own house, and not ours. But there they are, every Wednesday or Saturday or Tuesday evening, nesting on our curb like sleepy dogs.
The problem comes from the fact that we have real dogs, some strays but mostly just free-rangers, who tramp through the neighborhood looking for food. Rosie, a basset hound from two doors down, occasionally shows up in our yard, and once in our screened-in porch. She’s a sweetie but she’s a dog, looking for treats in spots not her own.
It could have been Rosie who, this morning, tore open Tasha’s bag and spread its contents all over our front lawn. Perhaps it was another dog. In any case, our lawn rolls down a steep decline from our house, so there’s no way the wind could have whipped Tasha’s garbage up the hill and into the part level with the house. An animal had to have scarfed the leftovers from a styrofoam container, leaving the little plastic sauce cups crunched and splintered around our dogwood trees. I found all this on my way out the door, running late (as usual). It was only a few pieces here and there, and I planned to let it go until I saw the bottom of the driveway. Trash everywhere. Well, now I know what Tasha eats regularly, and now I get to marvel at how she keeps her fantastic figure. Nothing but fast-food bags, styrofoam containers, sauce packets, plastic forks and spoons, half-eaten chicken, neon-colored slop—it was a blanket of garbage that covered a small part of the street. There was no way I could back down the driveway without grinding more of it into the asphalt, or spreading it around further.
So, I trudged down, cursing, and started picking it up. The garbagemen hadn’t come by, so I figured I would be a pleasant neighbor and put her stuff in our can. That is, until I came to the white glop. I had dug sweet-and-sour sauce and damp napkins, and it had rained hard last night, so wetness wasn’t a surprise on my fingers. The consistency and opaqueness of this mess, though, seemed unfortunately familiar.
“No, no, no,” but I could already see what I hadn’t wanted to see, at all. Yes, yes, yes, there it was: the torn Trojan packet, and then the used condom, upturned and, um, overflowing, next to it.
I dragged her trash, ripped bag and crumpled boxes and all, to her curb, not noticing whether any of it spilled over onto her yard. And then I knocked on her door, loudly. It’s 8:20am, and Tasha may have a night job or be a college student, but I just wiped her boyfriend’s jizz off my hand, and I really didn’t care if I woke her up.
This ends anticlimactically. Either she wasn’t home or she wasn’t answering. So, I went back inside, washed my hands, found a Sharpie, tape, and a notepad, and left a simple message on Tasha’s door: PUT YOUR TRASH IN YOUR CAN, DAMNIT. THANKS.
We’ll see if she responds.