The bedside clock flips to 12:00 am as I lay and watch the changes that occur in the span of a second. Wednesday becomes Thursday. November becomes December. Today becomes yesterday. So much time moved into the past tense. Yet my mind still hangs on to too much. Those conversations I should’ve had, but fumbled and passed. Emails that were so imperfect, they write and rewrite themselves in my head but are too late to be sent. In this midnight hour, anything can become sharp, little shovels to bury me inside myself.
I never used to be like this. As a kid, when December rolled around, I would lie awake and think of Santa.
And now, I am thinking about garbage men.
Not the regular ones who lounge inside their side-loader dumpster trucks. I know their sound. Grumbling up and down alleys. Big haul tires crunching gravel. Flexing bent mechanical arms every few feet to toss a bucket of weekly suburban waste into an open metal gut. Coffee pods leached of their dark roasted flavors. Single use contacts removed from sensitive dry eyes. Air fresheners dispensed of all their natural fresh scents.
No. The garbage men I’m thinking of are the ones I never hear. The ones who tend to park bins bolted to cement slabs. Monuments to the wasteful in the middle of wind-chilled fields. Things that are emptied while I’m tucked beneath my quilt, worried about the growing inches of snow pressing on the eaves overhead. As I get older, accumulation becomes a form of burden instead of delight. And December’s miracles are no longer carried out by an imaginary man with a penchant for red velvet in the form of cookies, cupcakes, and coordinating knits. Just regular people
who float through the night,
black plastic sacks on their back,
taking away all the things
we no longer need.