Well, I said, pull that river barge up. Let me come up. Up, up. Out of the city, off the cement docks, the wharfs. Let me up there, and I swear, I’ll help you clean this river.
River barge captains are notorious bargainers. Sure, he said, sure. You can ride for free, but you’ll have to man the lines. First, you need some gloves. Grab onto this rope. Now, pull.
So I pulled. I pulled all day on that rope, and the next one, ropes all over that barge. Thick gray ropes wider than my wrists. We skimmed the river, catching stuff that fell apart from the city. It got so all I could see was the disintegration of civilization, here in my river. Our river, our river.
Hauled aboard and manifested, remaindered components of human cultivation, and me thinking about the people in the disintegrating high-rises. How they looked out their windows and saw the barge going by, piled high with garbage, and so they’d look out another window. Windows onto brick walls. Windows onto alley ways with cans and paper. Anything other than to look at the barge going by.
Seagulls laughed at me, pulling my ropes, lines into black water and up cracking poles. Day and night, he captained, I pulled. We sailed that barge right into the dump, which was its own island.
You’ve got to get off now, said the captain, and he meant it. I disembarked, afraid of dry land now. He threw me a line, said to keep it. I’d earned it. I climbed to the top of a mountain of garbage with my coil of rope and watched him float away, light as styrofoam on top of that river now. We both waved. I was afraid.
But he was right. The garbage like waves under my feet, well, well. It felt like home. I took my rope and began building my own high-rise, right here in the dump, and maybe when the river barge comes back, I’ll look out another window instead.