the street below

A stray piece of styrofoam lies downstream from the pack, stranded alone and waiting for a breeze of the wind to carry it back to the group. On these streets, litter huddles together like violent gangs of the inner-city, and their presence is well known to all who walk on by. The dumpsters, designed to contain their entirety, are no match and overflow in all directions. The trash forms streams and moves swiftly onto the street before taken up by a passing tire. Passer-bys walk with their eyes directed elsewhere as they maneuver past, only to be met by a similar gang a few blocks down the road.

One brave, older women ventures into the mess with a small broom, made from nothing more than a tree branch and some straw bunched together, and attempts to clear a small patch where she can set up her shop for the afternoon. All the other spots are taken along the street. She doesn't need much room, just enough space for a bucket to sit on and a place to set a basket of laundry and cleaning supplies.  Twenty feet down the road a younger lady sells the same items, I begin to wonder how so many vendors can sell the same thing.

As I walk on, I come to another trash gang up ahead, this one average in size and only overflowing on two of the four sides. There's movement in the trash and from a distance, i cannot entirely tell what is disrupting the peace. Nearing the pile, I find a family of baby chicks emerging from underneath. The mother hen stands guard along the dumpster wall, watching as her flock of nearly a half dozen children wade through the trash looking for food for the day. The heat of the trash creates a slight haze of fog lifting all around the baby chicks, and they dart in and out of the styrofoam containers and plastic bottles with ease. 

I walk by, inches from the family, yet they seem unaware of my nearness. I stop and smile, and then move on. Up ahead, I pass by another series of street-side vendors, some of which are cooking and selling chicken. The road beneath them is littered in small plastic water bags, much like the ones that milk are served in at elementary school. Like a forest after a gentle snowfall, with occasional patches of white scattered across it's twig-strewn floor, the streets are littered in plastic. The bags do not carry enough importance to join forces with the larger trash gangs, they are simply tossed aside and quickly carried by the breeze. The bags seem to know they are not welcomed in the trash piles, and form a grouping of their own. Their pile is more uniform than the larger trash gangs and they cover a greater distance, although more sparse. The dust from passing vehicles forms a thin layer of earth on top and soon, they begin to fade into the ground, fooling the time nature needs to break down the plastic's synthetic bonds.

I turn the next corner and can see my apartment up at the top of the hill. I dodge an open sewer hole in which a trash gang has made it's home within. A small plant seems to grow from within and for a second, I begin to hope that maybe the trash has the ability to produce and harbor life, but as my gaze looks up once more, I see a pile of trash being burned and the smell quickly changes my mind. Plumes of grey smoke slowly billow out of the pile, and a faint flame can be seen underneath the great mound. Plastic bottles melt into pools of bubbling chemicals and the speckles of color are charred into a dull grey. A layer of mud seems to clothe the pile and the pockets of air find their way to the surface and escape into the shuffling crowd. 

I join the crowd myself and lifting my eyes toward the horizon, i avoid the stares from the trash below. You learn to become numb to it's presence beneath your feet, and i find my mind racing to other thoughts and concerns.

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