Stories

 

 

OUR GARBAGE CAN

I really wanted to begin this post like this: I almost got hit on the head with a sandwich walking to work the other day. So I think I will.

Because it explains why I invested €17 in a trash can today.

Do you see where this is going?

If you don’t, you need to spend some time on the benches on Constantinou Paleologou next to Manolito’s across the street and up the hill from where I work at Write CY.

It’s a beautiful neighborhood. The trees are immense. Immense. It’s populated by locals and immigrants—shop owners, entrepreneurs and dubious-looking but peaceable characters. Around the corner I can get discount rotten vegetables at the new Oxi Fruit Market every day of the week. If I walk a little further down Trikoupi Street there’s Friend’s, the best (sorry, Avo) pastourmas and spinach pies, zatar and lahmajoun in the Old City.

And don’t forget, you’ve got the Royal Hall too, the seediest, most menacing and corrupt-looking edifice of its kind on the island.

I love my neighborhood.

Which is why I hate getting hit on the head with flying food while walking to work.

But I also understand that for some people the concept of a garbage can is utterly alien. I’m not being smug when I say this. They just don’t get it. It would be like explaining drinking water out of a cup to someone who’s spent his life drinking it out of his hands. Some people see a city street as one long, flat all-purpose garbage can.

I hate it, but I’ve come to terms.

So I bought a garbage can today. With the help of a local business on Trikoupi that was generous enough to pitch in 90 cents of the €17, plus a garbage bag on the house. We all have to band together.

 
 

The litterers of Constantinou Paleologou are admittedly a desperate bunch. They’re beat-up-looking and unshaven. They all look about the same age, like senile youths or vice-versa. Some of them carry canes. You get the impression that Cyprus was some kind of American dream for them with its perennially warm weather and fresh food.

Maybe it was, but they ended up here on this bench drinking bottles of cheap Romanian beer, throwing shit at our heads.  

In a day or two these men launch upwards of 20 gallons of garbage into the landscaped bushes behind their bench. Most of the time it won’t hit you. Sometimes it comes close. You can find empty beer bottles, crushed cigarette packages, sandwich wrappers, napkins, plastic bags, lottery ticket stubs, vodka bottles, chips and chip wrappers, peanuts and peanut bags, orange rinds. If it wasn’t taboo, I’m sure they’d shit in the bushes—or into a bag they’d then throw into the bushes.

The litterers of Constantinou Paleologou are admittedly a desperate bunch. They’re beat-up-looking and unshaven. They all look about the same age, like senile youths or vice-versa. Some of them carry canes. You get the impression that Cyprus was some kind of American dream for them with its perennially warm weather and fresh food.

I’ve talked to the cleaning lady who’s in charge of Trikoupi and its environs. She’s local in her resignation—and that’s a universal, all-encompassing resignation so heavy that it pulls her whole soul down by the eyebrows.

What should she do? Shoot them? They’d probably litter their graves.

So here’s our garbage can.

I’ve put the Write CY logo on it, but you can put yours on there too, as long as you’re non-profit and offer the city something. Slap a sticker on there. A card. Draw your name in glitter ink.

Let’s see how long it stays there without a chain. (I’ve been told toilet seats have gone missing from the public restrooms downtown.)

If you do stop by, please explain to the men on that bench that there’s a reason we don’t chuck garbage at each other—and it’s because we love living here in this city, sharing benches and the good weather. And the enormous trees and even the Royal Hall.

Well, maybe not the Royal Hall.

—MAX SHERIDAN