There are many things which can reveal something about ourselves. The way we dress, our behavior, who we associate with and even how we furnish our apartment.
At times it’s the smallest things that reveal the most.
There is one thing though, no one ever thinks about that can reveal quite a bit about us: our trash.
Now, to be honest, I never thought about this myself. The one who came up with the idea was dumpster man.
Dumpster man lived in the same apartment building as me. It was this giant monstrosity that housed hundreds of people.
My apartment was located on the fourth floor. From there I could see the nearby park, the shopping mall down the road and of course the building’s walled in dumpster area.
It’s a common thing in my city. Each apartment building has its own private dumpsters that are walled in and can only be accessed via a key.
Dumpster man first appeared about two months ago. He was this scrawny, young dude with long, unkempt hair and roughed up clothes. The first time I saw him I instantly thought of Jay from the Kevin Smith movies.
He was, as you can probably guess, loitering around the dumpster area. I have no clue what drove him there, but whenever I took a peek outside, I could see him. At times he was sitting on the ground in front of it reading a book, at others, he was leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette.
At first, I thought he was a bum who decided to hang around the apartment building for some reason. I learned from a neighbor that he was actually living here as well. Apparently, he was some type of unemployed stoner dude, living on welfare.
Quite a few people scoffed at him when they threw their trash away or badmouthed him, but I wasn’t bothered by him at all. The dude was just sitting there reading and minding his own business. Hell, after the first week I started to greet him, and by the second we smoked the occasional cigarette together.
Turns out he used to be a student at the local university. He said things had gotten a bit too stressful, so he was taking a break from it. These days he was taking it slow, reading these old Jules Verne books and not doing much else.
He was quite the character, I thought.
As the days passed and I saw him down there, I couldn’t help to think that there was more to him. Why’d he sit next to the dumpsters all day? The weather was nice enough, and the park was only a couple minutes away. Why not go there? Why sit next to the smelly dumpsters?
The more I thought about it, the more I kept referring to him as dumpster man in my mind. I laughed at this stupid nickname, but I had to admit it was quite fitting.
It was a few days later, that I stood at my window, looking outside in the late afternoon. I was sipping from a cup of coffee when I heard an argument from below. And wouldn’t you know it, dumpster man was involved in it.
I didn’t understand what it was about, but there was this huge muscular dude, yelling at him and pushing him against the wall of the dumpster area. It looked as if dumpster man was in for a little beating. Suddenly though, the guy let him go, apologized, nodded and stormed off. I saw dumpster guy grin before he sat down again. What the hell had happened?
From that moment onward I couldn’t help myself but watch the events down there more often. I saw two other people who got into an argument with him, and I was sure it was only them.
What was the guy up to? Were people mad at him for loitering? If so, why had muscle dude apologized to him? There must be more to this.
It was my next door neighbor Miss Meier, who helped me solve dumpster man’s little mystery.
I was about to go grocery shopping when I ran into her in the hallway. She was usually a friendly middle-aged lady, but right now, she seemed to be furious. She almost bumped into me.
The moment she noticed me, she started venting about the creepy guy outside.
“Are you talking about dumpster ma-” I broke up and shook my head, “the guy at the dumpsters?”
“Who else would I be talking about? God, it’s so disgusting!”
“Wait, what is? He is just-”
“The stuff he’s doing! Going through people’s trash, taking notes and pictures and all that! Someone should call the police!”
“He’s what?” I said and couldn’t help but laugh a bit.
This made Miss Meier even angry. She gave me a hard look before she turned around and vanished behind the door to her apartment. I’d never seen her so mad before.
On my way out, I finally put two and two together. Don’t tell me this weird was going through people’s trash to see what he could find out about them. Did he ever find anything on me?
Were the arguments about that? Had people seen him do that? Or was he confronting them about the things he found out?
It was one of the weirdest and especially nastiest things I’d ever heard. But, it was so utterly bizarre that it was almost fascinating. Why was he doing it?
The next time I threw out the trash, I couldn’t help but talk to dumpster man about it. I handed him a cigarette and told him I knew what he was up to. He burst out laughing.
“Yo man, let’s cut a deal. You don’t report me, and I won’t check out your trash anymore, kay?”
“Sure, but I doubt you’d find anything interesting in my trash anyways.”
For a moment he gave me a knowing grin that unnerved me quite a bit. Shortly after he started laughing again.
“I’m joking bro.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as well. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about reporting him. I found his antics quite exciting and wanted to see how this whole thing played out. Right at that moment, I remembered the muscle dude that was about to beat him up.
“Say, what was the problem with that muscular dude that almost beat you up?” I asked.
“That dude? Wasn’t quite happy that I found his issue of ‘bear magazine’. Simply asked if his chick knew about it. Was all it took to shut him up.”
Man, this guy was such an asshole, yet I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.
“So, what’s this whole thing about? What are you getting out of it? Money?”
“Nah man, I haven’t found anything that serious yet. It’s mostly awkward shit that’s a bit embarrassing. To be honest with ye, back at university I was a psych major. Thought it might be interesting to see how people react when you find out their secrets. Well, and it’s funny as hell of course.”
There wasn’t anything else I could say.
“Well, if you find anything that’s really interesting, let me know,” I said when I left.
From then on I ended up chatting with dumpster man quite a few times. What can I say, the guy was interesting enough, at least compared to everyone else I’d gotten to know in the building. And I guess there was this weird fascination with the stuff he uncovered.
What I didn’t think about was other people’s reaction. Word about dumpster man and his shenanigans had gotten around. When they saw me hanging out with him, it was only natural that they assumed I was involved in it as well.
Miss Meier, who’d been nothing but friendly to me, wouldn’t even look at me now.
“Can’t believe you’re hanging out with that guy,” she once scoffed at me in the hallway.
She wasn’t the only one though. It was quite a few other people who gave me the stink-eye and talked about me behind my back. Oh well, whatever, not like I cared.
In time dumpster man got into his own set of troubles. There was this elderly couple that ended up screaming at him for almost half an hour. Then there was the time he got beat up by a group of younger dudes. And of course, he got in trouble with the police. They were there more than ones, lecturing him.
When I talked to him though, he was always in high spirits. He struck me almost as the buildings jester or something. When I asked him about the cops, he told me it was nothing serious. As long as he wasn’t in trouble of being locked up, he’d ride this whole thing out as long as he could.
All that high spirit and energy was gone when I saw him again earlier this week. He was sitting against the wall of the dumpster area, holding a cigarette in his shaking hands. He didn’t even look up when I greeted him.
The moment I returned I went over to him. He was furiously going through his small notebook and the pictures on his phone.
“Hey, what’s up?”
The moment he noticed that I stood in front of him, he jerked back and almost hit his head against the wall.
“Fuck man, you scared me!”
“What’s the matter with you? Found something interesting?”
He opened his mouth as if to say something, but he shook his head. He put away his notebook and his phone and made his way back inside.
“Oh come on, I know-” I started.
“It’s nothing, man. Just got tired of the whole trash thing, kay?”
What that he hurried up the stairs. I was about to follow him, but realized that I didn’t even know his real name, nor his apartment. Oh well, I thought, he’s going to be back out there soon.
Oh, he was back out there. This time it wasn’t outside the dumpster area though.
It was yesterday evening that the garbage man called the cops. When they’d emptied the dumpsters, they’d found a corpse inside, dumpster man’s.
When the police changed the rest of the dumpsters, they found various other things. There were human teeth, not one or two, but dozens of them. What was even worse though, was a small bag containing nothing but patches of human skin.
I am typing this out now because this has all turned way too weird way too quickly.
I am pretty sure that dumpster man must have found something that day. That’s why he was such a mess, and that’s why he was killed. I am also pretty damn sure that he knew who threw them away.
When I went out today, I still got those disdainful stairs.