I awoke in the cold damp of morning and reached out to kiss the Sobeys bag that reminded me of my mother when she was young, but it was a dream. The boy was curled up next to me, his chest rising and falling. I leaned over to stroke the boy’s head but thought better of it. The boy was not a plastic bag.
I went outside and scanned the grim bagless dawn. High up, a Fortinos bag, blown in from Oakville, swirled in a wind eddy. I marked its trajectory and waited for it to fall back to earth. It was a seagull.
A junkie walked by trying to huff five-minute epoxy from his cupped hands. His nostrils were glued shut.
A woman with a dog came from the other way. Her free hand filled with excrement. They all carried their dog excrement now. Except the rich. The rich put theirs in reusable shopping bags. The very rich used insulated bags that seal shut with Velcro and keep the excrement warm. They do not know the gnaw of wanting a bag.
From here in Mimico you can see the lights of Mississauga twinkling at night but I fear I will never make it to the land of plastic bags. My wife begged me not to go. It was raining in Leslieville where there were no bags. The bike seat was wet and my one remaining plastic bag was too valuable to tie around a wet seat. Wait till it’s dry, she said. The tears dripped off her cheek.
I will come back for you, I told her and pedalled west over blacktop.
The chafing was bad. By Parkdale, I could no longer sit and so we walked, the boy and I, the plastic bag rolled up and hidden in my shoe. For hours we walked and then collapsed on some front lawn in the dark of night.
An old man took pity. He carried us into his living room and built a fire. He tipped spoonfuls of broth into my dry mouth. He said, There there, my brother.
I have a plastic bag, I mumbled.
He said, There there, my brother, and fed me more soup.
In the morning the old man was gone. So was the plastic bag. A note said, “The house is yours.” But there were no bags. The Q-tips and tissues clung to the inside of wastebaskets. Pillowcases and cushion covers had been stripped to carry groceries. The organic bin beneath the sink had overflowed so much that the floor had caved in.
That was four years ago.
When the boy woke up I put my hand on his head and said, Go to the landfill, my son.
There are plastic bags in the landfill. A man can make a living in the landfill.
He returned at dinner. He had a late-nineties LCBO plastic bag with reinforced plastic handles. Can we keep it? he said, but I shook my head no. We emptied out the old diapers and sprayed the interior with cologne. We went to a Metro and sold it for good money to lawyer in a BMW who forgot his reusable bags at home.
Then we walked the gleaming aisles. We grabbed fruit, toilet paper, meat and cereal. For the first time in months, we had groceries.
But we could not carry them home.