I don’t mean that he’s inside it. He is not like Oscar the Grouch. He is an actual man in jeans and a Ben Sherman jacket that is zipped up to the neck and he is sitting in a bin, long thin denim legs lolling out in front of him. He leans back against the garden wall that divides the house from the street and he huches over the bright light of his phone, scrolling.
I’m walking on the same side of the road as him. It would be rude to cross over so I have to carry on. As I pass, he nods at me.
“Hi,” I say cautiously.
“Alright?” It’s not a question. He doesn’t look up.
I get to the corner of the road and look back. I look at my watch. I have twenty minutes to get to work.
“Are you alright?” I’ve stopped a good twenty feet away before I ask him this question. I don’t want to stand to close in case he is drunk or insane.
“Yeah, mate,” he says, not looking up from his phone, “Don’t you worry about it.”
I dither. I wonder if I’ve been given permission to go about my day. I’ve done my best. He says he’s okay. He continues to ignore me as I stand silently wavering.
“It’s just that you’re… in a bin.”
“Yeah, I’ve been dumped.”
“Dumped. Binned off. Rejected. She,” he jerks a thumb behind him, “doesn’t want to know anymore.”
“You’ve broken up with your girlfriend?”
“You’ve got it, squire.”
I’m not sure if the “squire” is sarcastic or not.
“…And you’re waiting outside her house.”
“Waiting for the binmen, yeah.”
I look at the house. It’s quiet, curtains drawn. I wonder if I should knock and warn her. He’s looking at me now and seems to read my thoughts.
“I’m not waiting for her. She broke up with me last night. I left and plonked myself here. Best place for me. I get it. I’m done.”
“Okay,” I say nervously, “See you later.”
“You won’t. But cheers!”
I back away.
I wander toward the end of the road and check my watch. Fifteen minutes to get to work. I’m going to be late. As I reach the corner, a bin lorry passes by me, heading toward him.
I stop and watch from a distance. The bin men in their hi-vis outfits walk rapidly, collecting each bin in turn and shouting instructions to each other. They don’t notice the man until they reach him. One binman raises his arms in exasperation. I hear the phrase “having a laugh”.
Eventually the man clambers out of the bin and puts himself in the bin lorry. The bin men empty the bin over him. Just before the big semi-circular shutter closes on the man, he looks up from his phone and gives me a thumbs up.
Author Bio: James C. Holland is based in the UK and has recently concluded a series of alien invasion gardening columns for Bear Creek Gazette. He has previously been published in Spare Parts Lit and, in collaboration with artist Chris Hagan, in Brighton: The Graphic Novel published by QueenSpark Books. He has long covid which is exhausting but has given him time to discover the joys of writing. You can find him on Twitter at @james_c_holland.