Trash Can (Creative Nonfiction)

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I’ve been the boy by the trash can several times before; the feeling was familiar. Put me in a room with a trash can during any type of social event, and I’d feel the Sisters of Fate guide me over to the garbage canister before I could even see where it was. Finding myself placed near another one was just part of the game I never agreed to play. Maybe it was destiny, but let’s be real: destiny didn’t want anything to do with my hopeless ass, that night. 

And despite this dimly-lit, Indie Rock venue swarming with happy faces and lively conversation, I was the one by the trash can, the only trash can, in that entire room. I lingered by it in the same way that you linger around your only friend at a party full of strangers: feeling like I should break away, but feeling safer because I didn’t. However, since trash cans can’t give you a side-eye, it just offered waves upon waves of sour beer fumes, as if it was trying to shove me out into the crowds. Sadly, it just made us both smell like urine.

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Who was I impressing by standing by a plastic can full of beer cans and flimsy, plastic cups? I certainly didn’t impress the guitarist with the dark-colored beard and the tattoo sleeve, the one smiling face in that room that seemed bright enough to pierce the first hole in my world of trash-colored darkness. With one look at how his smile charmed each person he talked to, I knew he didn’t, and wouldn’t, talk to guys who stand near trash cans. He’d only talk to boho hipster chicks with flowing hair and hipster guys whose hair looked as disheveled as it did put-together, both parties most likely having a decent Instagram following of people they’d hope were following them for something other than their looks. I imagine it was programmed in him to avoid boys wearing slouch beanies to hide their unkempt hair and baseball tees stating that they’re an introvert, who were debatably willing to be associated with the scent of trash. But when you put hipster royalty and geek trash in the same room, the universe would have surely imploded had he approached me, instead.

It wasn’t until I saw the bearded, tattooed guitarist that I decided that I didn’t want to be the boy by the trash can, anymore. Being the boy by the trash can, which was just as uncomfortable as it was comfortable, no longer had the same appeal that it had when I was young, when having to talk to new people felt like navigating around a series of bear traps down a long, narrow hallway. I wanted to move away from the stench of garbage tainting how I saw the world around me. I wanted to be among the hipster kings and queens of the kingdom that I was missing out on, if even just to see what made their smiles so damn ethereal. Even in that dark venue, light seemed to dance around them, undoubtedly generated from their boundless unconventional enthusiasm, but maybe everything seemed so much brighter when I was used to the darkness of a world beside garbage.

As it became time for the bearded, tattooed guitarist to join his band of Indie Rock royalty, I watched him walk past me, climb the steps to the stage, and sling his guitar across his torso, knowing my status as the boy by the trash can had taken its toll yet again. I never hated it more than in the moment when I saw him sway to the rhythm of a song made from the magic of his own talent; it was then when I felt that ethereal glow welcome me into a world away from where I was no longer fully comfortable. It felt warm, but it a kind of warmth that came from inside me, as if the passion in him created a spark that ignited a flame that burned as bright, or maybe even brighter than the crowd I envied.

It was the first time I remembered smiling while standing by a trash can.