Every street feels like remembering an event from childhood: both definite and blurry at the same time. The houses line themselves up neatly, bracing against the wind — strong and cold. In turn, the dust softens the features that distinguish each from the other. The wind blows through the streets, gasps through the holes in buildings. It picks up a crumpled receipt, an empty lipstick tube, a gum wrapper. By the next morning the streets are emptied once more, swept clean.
The center of the city is where these lost things go: they form a huge pile in the center square. The pile is structural, architectural — as if someone mapped each pivot, each ledge. It asserts itself as an integral part of the town, as common as another building or school. Above the buildings it rises tall and blue, spiraling. As the wind sweeps by, we think we hear wind chimes or church bells. We think often that the pile of trash will exceed us, live past our time. We start to covet it. Perhaps it is our counterfeit cathedral of sorts, for what do we believe in other than what we can see?
The trash expands and folds into itself, very much alive and breathing. Often, we pull a corner of the curtains to peek at it through our little sliver of window. We want to reassure ourselves that it exists. That we didn’t dream it up. There is a keychain that pulses with light, an old jacket filled with periwinkle flowers. But sometimes there are stranger things: little dead birds that line the streets after a heavy migration, cloudy bottles filled with candy-pink liquid, doll sets. Sometimes we see a wedding ring, wondering who it belonged to. The shape grows larger and larger until it touches the tops of the dark blue clouds. The items at the peak topple downwards, until we don’t know what is old or new —they merge together in one big alloy of past and present.
One day, the mountain of things started to disappear. We aren’t sure what happened, whether it was gradual or sudden. One moment, we were quietly contained; the next, we were filled with alarm. Neighbors started quibbling over what happened to the giant mass of stuff that turned from a bulky conglomeration to a thinner pile, to finally nothing at all. We had theories: that it was sucked up into the clouds, that it rained acid and eroded the sculpture, that God had taken it away. We did not know exactly why we were struck so deeply from loss. Perhaps it was an unconscious recognition that we had been privy to something magical only to have it wrestled away. Like anything that belongs to us, we missed it much more once it was gone.
Tonight, the wind whistles past our windows as it always does.
We sit inside our homes, silent and numb.
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