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Sean’s trashcan sits by the east wall of his room, by his closet door. A black wire trash can about as tall as his eight year old brother was. Inside is a range of things.
You’ll find a ripped envelope, containing a letter from his estranged mother. The words are written in delicate cursive, blue fountain pen on cream colored stationary. A letter saying she’s sorry for leaving him. Saying she wishes she could change things. Saying she just wants to hold her son. The return address is from the state penitentiary. She is begging him to come and visit her. It’s at the bottom of the trash can.
Another letter sits on top of the one his mother had sent him. It’s not sealed carefully in an envelope, but just on a page ripped from a composition notebook. It’s written in red ballpoint pen, indenting the page and poking holes in a few places. The pen must of ran out of ink halfway through because it changes to green gel pen towards the end of the letter. Green ink soaks through the thin paper. A letter he wrote to a girl in his AP physics class. One he will never send, because he knows what she thinks of him. One pouring out his emotions to this girl, the girl with the auburn hair who sits next to him. This girl is his lab partner and his hopeless love. The girl won’t even look him in the eye. She thinks he is a lowlife. He knows he is more. The letter is an unfinished, crumpled ball.
Next is a picture. The picture holds him and Nate, his little brother, in perfect happiness. It was taken at Lake Moraine last summer on the weekend that changed everything. You see two boys, one about sixteen and the other just turning eight. Both boys wear swim trunks, Sean has sunglasses on. It was captured only moments before Sean walked to get something from his car and came back to a missing little brother and a silent lake. A picture taken just days before his father accused him of hurting Nate, when the water was at fault.
You’ll find a traffic ticket from the night he had to get his father from the bar at one in the morning. He was pulled over for a broken taillight but then busted because he only had his learner’s permit at the time. His father made him pay it, because somehow, that was Sean’s fault too.
There was a report card. Straight A’s, perfect GPA. The report card he had shown to his father hoping for pride. Instead his father told him he was a geek. Saying his perfect grades would never fix the mistakes he had made. Saying it was his fault his mother left and his brother was gone. He couldn’t fit anyone’s standards. At school, people thought he was a low life because of his family situation. His father thought he was hiding from the situation. So he threw it in the garbage.
Next came the painting he had done. All it was, was black paint covering the page. Then a minuscule white dot in the center. His art teacher said it lacked effort and was slapped together at the last minute. To him, it was so much more. To him it represented his life. Darkness, with just a fraction of hope. The painting had caused him to for once, fail a class.
A pile of protein bar wrappers and empty whey protein packets litters the trash can as well. These were from his attempt to join football for his dad junior year. This also explains the doctor’s letter about his broken leg that had resulted the night of his first-and last- game.
The corsage he had bought Anya Johnson for senior prom last month. She asked him to be her date then stood him up. A wilted glob of orchids and pink ribbon, just rotting away in the trash can.
There’s a broken pair of headphones, cobalt blue Skull Candy brand. Knotted wires and cracked plastic. He had blasted his music so loud for months. Right before his mother went away he would turn up the melodies that saved him. He couldn’t hear his parents fight with the notes pounding through his brain. He couldn’t hear the yelling about his mother’s partying and his father’s drinking. All he heard was a flow of notes, melodies, chords and lyrics taking him to a new place. Until the day they broke, unable to produce even one transporting, saving note.
On top of the trash can is yet another letter. An official envelope holding a perfectly typed and sealed. This one from Yale. Saying he would be accepted to their fall semester, studying pre-law. He had gotten the letter in the mail just this morning. He had ran down to his father showing him the letter. He had stood before his father, his back straight and tall. His face had never had such a smile on it in years. He had tears in his eyes. He had never been more proud in his life. His father read it, muttering the words out loud. His eyes had narrowed, glaring at Sean. He told him he couldn’t believe it. Told him he couldn’t believe, his dumb son had made it to Yale. His delinquent, murderer of a son actually did something with his life. Sean told him he wasn’t a murderer or a delinquent. All the pain in his life was caused by him, his father. His dad yelled so loud. His father said he couldn’t go to Yale. Sean threw the letter from Yale into the trashcan, his heart breaking into shards.
The trash can is now toppled over, it’s contents spilled on the carpet.