To Have Trash

Cheyenne Tessier - Senegal


January 9, 2013

The smell of burning waste seeps in through the open screens of my bedroom window. I came here to escape it. I thought that it would be far enough. It was us who raked the plastic next to the highway and added a bit of grass, so that it could burn quickly. It was me who bought the twenty-five cent matchbook. It was us who emptied the trashcans full of waste and all that for which the people in Noflaye had no use anymore, and it was me who set the fire to the heaping pile of cancerous waste. We took pictures to raise money for the environmental club: another successful year of trash pickup for the environmentally friendly village of Noflaye.

And it was I who cracked open the can of lead paint to redo and protect the trashcans and the signs and the village for the future generations. The rusty metal container cried a toxic yellow tear before dripping onto the ground.

But there were no trashcans before.

But there was no trash before.

“It’s great that there are trashcans here.”  The French say that Noflaye has come a long way. And as they drink their organic juices, they throw the plastic containers into the shallow bin without a second thought for the lungs of the inhabitants of a village which doesn’t know to not burn trash because there was no trash before. Yes, Noflaye is pretty.

But still, the smell of burning plastic on my pillowcase.

And I take the cup of Nescafe, which is eating a hole in the bottom of the small plastic cup, so I drink it quickly, as not to waste a single drop of that BPA.

And I cough because the highway that was built through the middle of Noflaye to carry the Western goods also carries the pollution of the Western world’s vehicles to the lungs of an ancient people who survived, placidly and admirably before the jars of medicine or the canisters of hairspray or plastic containers of skin bleach were shipped here.

Sometimes, we must ask ourselves, what does it mean to have trash?

Cheyenne Tessier