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Urban living: Unexpected bedfellows

Urban living: Unexpected bedfellows

Months ago, Peter and I had put our garbage/recycling/compost receptacles curbside on the regular Tuesday evening, all neat for Wednesday morning pickup. We’d settled into our den for the nightly television binge, when we heard something or someone, tossing our garbage around, and it sounded like they were making a mess. By the time we got off the sofa, the garbage disrupter had disappeared.

Everything looked calm.

On examination, however, it was clear that all our soda cans, water bottles and other recyclables-for-cash had been deftly lifted from the big blue bin, and spirited away into the night.

We had been picked over!

This went on for weeks.

Each time we heard it happening, we got angry, but we discussed it and decided that whoever was denuding us of cashable cans was obviously in need of the money, so we let it be. One evening though, my curiosity got the better of me, and I hurried to our door, opening it as unobtrusively as I could, to see what I could see.

There was a little woman, several filled paper bags in hand, scurrying over to a waiting truck. She got in before I could say anything, shooting me a furtive glance over her right shoulder as she went. I returned inside, impressed with her enterprise, and the planned nature of her scavenging.

She had a truck! One that aided and abetted her at not only our house, but obviously many others as well.

The lady was in business!

The following Tuesday I was putting our bins out earlier than usual, since I wanted it done before we left for dinner with friends. Suddenly, out of thin air, along came a small Filipino, half my height, looking frail as a leaf, carrying several empty bags. Was it our weekly visitor, casing the possibilities before the main event, like a potential bidder going to a pre-auction showing to see what was desirable? Was I under surveillance, so she’d know when the cans went out? Her truck was nowhere in sight.

She looked around hungrily for our blue bin.

I interrupted her reverie by saying hi.

“Oh, hello,” she chirped. “You got cans?”

It was she! The Bottle and Can Mogul.

“You got some bottles, maybe?”

“Why, yes, yes I do. Lots of them.”

She purred with pleasure.

“But they’re not out yet — here, follow me.” And I showed her through our open garage door to a Promised Land of cashable possibilities.

We stood in the garage picking out dozens of cans and bottles, all the way down to the bottom of the blue bin. Then she trailed me close as I wheeled the bin to the curb.

“Next week, you have more, right? More cans and bottles?”

There was iron in her gaze. She was determined.

“Probably! Say, what’s your name?”

“Adriana … what’s yours?”

I told her, and promised my bottles the following week. She patted my hand and told me what a nice girl I was. She then toddled off down the street, a tiny ant carrying large lumps of goodies. No need for her to return that night: She had what she wanted from us, and I enjoyed our interaction.

It went on that way for a couple more weeks. We’d go through the blue bin together, and she’d leave with full bags.

Then, one afternoon, I was driving away with a friend when Adriana came by and she made me name a time I’d be returning, so we could have our negotiation.

Well, as it happened, I returned long after the time I’d told her, and I never gave Adriana another thought that day, but I did notice there was no rummaging in our garbage that night. She and I had reached an accommodation, I thought. We understood each other: no more nighttime rummaging.

As it turns out, though, Adriana had returned at the time I said I would, and not finding me there, she complained to Phillip, my ex-husband who shares the other half of our house, and who happened to be outside.

“She was very disappointed in you, Evalyn,” Phillip informed me. “Seemed a bit angry … sad too. What’s that about?”

And I explained about my new friend and our Tuesday understanding about recyclables. I was now more or less her regular supplier.

We laughed, Phillip and I, over the oddity of people, and that was that. Or at least I thought so.

But now I find Adriana is on my mind. We’ve made up, I vowed to keep my word and I seem to be shaping my Tuesdays so I can keep that promise.

All for some bottles and cans.

And for something else, too, I imagine. Something human and shared.

An agreement.

A friendship?

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