I happily sprayed my succulents, misting the plump petals until gravity made a Slip And Slide that pulled the droplets down to a light cover of the top soil. I peered through the grated white shelving of my plant stand in front of the window, gaze narrowing to a patch of pavement where a pair of black rubber flip flops took up residence next to an electric box. They had pink gel straps and an air of abandonment after living there for over a month. But they weren't the only lost soles. There were Sketchers at the bus stop. Sitting patiently under the simplistic metal bench, as if waiting for a ride.
I could sense the sadness in these objects that were anchored by a "Fuck it" outlook on life. When you have so little that all you know is loss. When you don't expect the good so you treat your stuff like garbage. When your reality bites so you get high to survive.
Single-lens sunglasses peered from thick, unkempt bushes that magnetized trash. Beer caps became one with the dirt, growing shades of rust that looked artistic in a junkyard sort of way. Pieces of children's toys and evacuated shopping carts lay mired in clusters of old newspaper and wild brush at the flood channel openings. These were trackings of underground lives that pulled together bedrooms in the storm drains. When the summer flash floods hit, possessions painstakingly collected for the semblance of a home could be washed away in minutes. People died, swept away in an uncontrollable current that spit out unremembered remnants only to be salvaged by the ones who believed they had no options.
Some findings were so random, I couldn't match them with a logical story. Like the junk food bomb of half-full soda bottles, fried chicken and candy wrappers marring a four-foot radius in the gravel lot next to Budget Suites. An explosion detonated with utter disregard for all the ones that went to sleep hungry.
It was an arrogant kind of waste, this food in the streets. Discarded shoes and clothing in good condition. Amidst bunches of spiny cactus outside the library, I spotted a shoebox, toppled on its side and pouring out contents of panties and a skin tone bra. On my way into the grocery store, I passed a complete work uniform graying in the sun. The black ensemble was typical of Vegas service industry jobs, a culture all its own. Odd hours. Degrading pay structure. Grounded in addictive behaviors to burn off steam after stressful shifts. I cringed thinking of my serving days and the knots in my shoulders that still held their tension. How I would have loved to strip down to undies, throw up a finger and ditch my uniform on a sidewalk somewhere. Who knows if this crumpled mass of poly-cotton blend was the mark of claimed freedom or drunken decision-making . . . maybe both.
Sometimes on walks, I'd fixate my eyes on the pretty palms dotting the pristinely landscaped resort property near our apartment. Trying hard to pretend I was somewhere else. A place where junkies didn't leave their needles in the parking lot. A pocket of paradise where empty booze bottles and soda cans made it to a recycle bin. A home where people's pain and desperation didn't coat the streets. It took diligent focus to run a silver lining along this strip of Las Vegas Boulevard. I wore my rose colored glasses religiously to transcend an environment where doing great was just getting by.