It’s freezing. I snuggle under my pile of blankets trying to keep the cold out. I peek out and check on my shopping cart. Good, it’s still there. Last week some bastard stole my cart.
I take a swig. Ah, that’s good. I better get up soon. I hear people walking by. I can’t believe they don’t even say hello. They don’t care if I live or die. They have nice clothes. I know mine are dirty but where can I wash them? I want to be clean too.
I better get going if I want to get my cans. I stand and my blankets fall to the ground. I roll the blankets up and stuff them into the bottom of the cart. I push hard. I need all the room I can get.
Good, the trash bags are still there in the cart. I stand and start my routine. First thing I go to the park. The trash cans always have cans. Coke, Coke, Coke, Sprite, Coke, Pepsi. I toss the cans in the bag. A couple is walking on the path. They stare at me. I’m not an animal. I’m a human. This is how I survive.
I finish the trash cans. It’s not enough. This won’t pay for a cup of coffee. I got to go downtown.
This is the tough part. The cops chase me. The shopowners hate me. They don’t want a bum with a shopping cart in front of their store. They don’t know me. I’m human just like them.
I grew up in the midwest. I had a great family. My brothers and sisters stuck together. I played football. I threw bullets and my receivers caught them. It’s crazy. I was a high school hero. Then it went downhill.
I couldn’t get into college. I took any job I could. I worked as a landscaper, a grinder and a roofer. Nothing worked out.
Finally I had an inspiration. I came to New York City. I knew there would be a job for me.
I asked every day. I submitted my resume. I interviewed. Nothing came. Eventually I found a place to sleep under a bridge. I started collecting cans.
Cans keep me alive. I’ve learned a lot. Some are made of steel coated with zinc. Those are the strong ones. Others are aluminum and flimsy. I hesitate when I pick them up.
The bottom line is numbers. I need to harvest massive numbers. Every day I do my rounds. I reach into the trash cans. Sometimes I gag. It is so bad. I keep going. I don’t have a choice.