in new york city, you can leave anything on the street and it will get picked up and taken away. your once precious belongings find themselves in the hands of others: usually a garbage man in the middle of the night, sometimes a purple-haired hipster early in the morning. i’ve watched it happen: bookcases bungeed to the tops of cars with new jersey license plates, ugly lamps thrown over shoulders, gigantic, bedbug-ridden futons rolled down third avenue by nyu freshmen who don’t know better yet. in 48 hours, that futon will find itself on the curb yet again, this time in front of a dorm where a bitter thirty-something will spit on it, cursing the system, wishing he had brought a buddy who could help him lug his newfound treasure up all six floors to his dingy studio apartment.
people leave their memories on the curb, mixing them unceremoniously with the trash, the occasional recyclable. years-old love letters are doused in day-old bolognese, expired credit cards and expired yogurt are intertwined for the rest of eternity, beginning the process of decomposition within the folds of each other. visa and fruit-on-the-bottom: a redefinition of the ever-elusive soulmate.
sitting on my fire escape, i watch the chairs as they wait, two of them, perfectly upright, perfectly alone. i’m in the middle of a conversation about art, in the middle of a sentence even, and suddenly i understand it: the desire to touch those chairs, to rescue them. it makes me itchy and i’m trying to rationalize adopting them, both of them, even though i have nowhere to put them and i don’t even like the print on the cushion. i’m watching them, waiting, and i can feel them watching me back, a staring contest without a victor. all this in the middle of a conversation about art, in the middle of a sentence even, and suddenly it’s the time of the night when i can feel the street vibrating with the rumbling of the garbage trucks. i’m watching the burly Trash Collectors put their hands all over my chairs and i’m thinking:
it took time to craft those imperfections, the subtle creases and indentations. the chairs saw spills and pot roasts and farts and sex and generations upon generations of ass cheeks. they resolved fights and celebrated birthdays and paid taxes and almost buckled under the weight of the fat aunt. they endured, as furniture must, living a thankless existence, appreciated only when someone needed to take a load off, and even then, they were a second and third choice to the more comfortable chair in the living room.
they were destroyed almost instantly. the wood splintered, snapping into a thousand pieces, simultaneously tearing the chairs apart and joining them as one creation that will live in the back of that garbage truck until it is dumped into a landfill somewhere. the chairs will join the ranks of the expired, the forgotten.
i’ve lost my train of thought.
i barely know my partner in conversation.
“it’s so sad,” i say.
“that’s how life goes,” he responds.
i change the subject.
we carry on.