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A Scavenger's List
My non-comprehensive index of things picked from the sidewalk
*Three 12-ounce juice glasses.
One is a little stout. It has thick oval impressions around the circumference of the glass. The other two are smooth and thin with a flare at the top. Each glass was left on a flowerpot. Three separate flowerpots in the vicinity of three separate dining shacks outside three different local restaurants.
I imagine each of them—set down in the middle of a late-night conversation or carried away when the phone rang in the middle of a meal. I found them on my morning walks, tipped over lonesome in the potting soil, leaning against a fern, or half-buried in the petunias. The glass caught the light and glittered.
*A soft gray women's t-shirt…
just a little too big for me, draped over a cast-iron railing. It was apparently the castoff from some promotional event, with a large red-and-black logo for a new record label across the chest.
I took it home and washed it, then looked up the record company’s stable of young bands. They sounded like other bands I’d heard. I wore the shirt to bed for a couple nights, then it was back in the laundry hamper, and finally tossed in a pile to donate. Easy come, easy go.
when I was seventeen. One of the Greek boys playing soccer in a parking lot one night in Athens. I kissed him, standing on the sidewalk after the game.
Had he won the game? I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. He asked to come to my hotel and I said no. I was laughing. He asked me again. “Your room?” He didn’t seem to speak any other English.
I was drunk every night in Athens, so I guess I was drunk that night too. I said no, but kissed him again, and it was all so funny. He had rough stubble all over his chin and cheeks. The whole thing was ridiculous—the soccer game, the filthy parking lot, all the kissing. I just couldn’t stop laughing.
*Nineteen beige velvet hangers.
They were neatly stacked inside a thick, unwrinkled paper bag with the insignia of a high-end sneaker store. The hangers seemed to be in perfect condition. At the bottom of the sack were pants clips, five pairs.
There were twenty hangers, but I thought I saw a little red dot on one. I sat on a bench and looked over each one–discarding the one with the possible red dot–before I brought them inside.
*A nearly brand-new pair of neon-colored running shoes…
in my size, at a sidewalk sale. The woman selling them was a few years younger than me. She was sitting in her front yard.
Her baby slept quietly in its carrier on the grass near her. Her husband was in the driveway, lifting a large wooden table into the back of another’s customer’s SUV. They were moving to Sacramento “for work,” she said. She nodded her sunglassed head toward the shoes. “I have so many running shoes,” she said. “I run every day. Do you run?”
I shook my head. Then I thought better of it. “I might run,” I said.
I twisted one of the clean white laces around my finger and tugged at it.
“I’m starting to learn,” I said.
In Quebec City, I was plucked from the sidewalk by a man named GG. It may have been JJ. We were speaking French, so whatever name it sounded like, it was the other one. I think he took my hand. I didn’t want to follow him, but I went along anyway.
He pulled me to his favorite tree in the old cemetery (I was thinking, it’s too quiet here) and his favorite garden behind a townhouse (no one is around to hear anything) and yes, the roses were blooming up the stone wall. Finally, up a long elevator ride to the top of a skyscraper hotel. A red-hatted bellboy nodded us into a wide windowed dining room.
Looking over the St Lawrence River, I stopped believing he was going to kill me. The room must have been used for events or private dinners. It was all windows, with the river and the town of Levis on the other side. You could see the barges turning toward Montreal.
GG had holes in the tops of his shoes—the opposite of that Paul Simon song, but that’s what I thought of. He stared at the water and he clapped his hands lightly.
*An ancient half-ton air-conditioner window unit.
My friend Sara and I balanced it between us, shifting the weight back and forth as we hauled it up the back flight of stairs to our apartment in New Haven. We wrestled it into the living room window, closed the sash, and plugged it in. We were just hoping, I guess.
It was broken. Obviously, it was broken. And it was a bitch to haul it back outside again.
* I just couldn’t…
(Last week, I walked right past a little girl with a sidewalk lemonade stand. I wasn’t really in a hurry, but I pretended to be. I looked anxiously down the street, as if I were running late. I gave her a nervous smile and kept walking. I can’t explain it.)
*A paperback copy of John Berryman’s 77 Dream Songs.
This morning. It was in a cardboard box outside an apartment building, thrown on top of a German-to-English dictionary and Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel.” I rummaged through the box, but I only took the Berryman. I paused at an intersection and opened it instinctually to number 14.
When I was twelve years old, I opened this same book to the same poem at the Borders bookstore in Rapid City, South Dakota. I leaned my shoulder against the cool wooden shelf, all the smooth spines of the books.
Now I stood at the curb and searched again for the lines…
...and moreover my mother told me as a boy (repeatingly) "ever to confess you’re bored means you have no Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no Inner resources, because I am heavy bored
Myself—and (isn’t it strange?) even at twelve years old—I always identified with the mother.
This world is just too rich.
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Tonya Morton is the publisher of Juke.