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True or False: I Am the Reason My Niece and Nephew Will Have to Wear Gasmasks at Their Children’s Graduation Ceremonies

If you’re the type to believe a somewhat unreliable narrator, listen up:

In my kitchen, there is a stainless steel trashcan with a foot pedal that pops its top, and it’s here, at this very moment, when everything around me comes to a temporary standstill, not entirely dissimilar to Wile E. Cyote’s pre-plummet freeze in time.

It is interrupted, more times than not, by the same voice saying the same thing: “What are you doing?”

“Do you think this can be recycled?” I ask. I ask this every time, turning my hips, my hand, toward her so she can see exactly what it is I’m talking about, so she can take a look and scrutinize it herself, weigh this heavy moment with me.

“Let me look,” and she does, goes right to the top drawer where the Town of Avon Recycling Information 2009 mailer is kept. She looks at the mailer, then looks again at my hand. I can hear her exhale hard through her nose while I wait.

She’s growing impatient with this routine, and actually left a paper copy of a recent newspaper article, printed from the daily’s website, on my laptop about eco anxiety and how it’s affecting people like me, people in my age group. Or maybe those only easily made anxious, or whatever. In response, I left this note for her, penned neatly at the top of the first page, just beneath the web address from which it came: “Duly noted. Emailed web link next time, maybe?” She didn’t talk to me for, like—oh man, for what felt like a long time after this.

She says, “Is the paper coated?”

I say, “Sorta.

“No, come on,” she says. She fucking always says this. “You know what I mean. Is it coated or not?”

My calf is quivering now from having held my foot and the trashcan’s lid in the same position for however fucking long now. I say, “Okay, yeah, it’s lightly coated.” I check this with my nails.

“Throw it away,” she says, and then the drawer slams. “The mailer doesn’t specify types or weights of coatings, so throw it away.”

And so I do, after she’s already left the room. I lower my hand into the trash and drop it so that it doesn’t make a noise, as if that will help it have less impact.

When I sit on the soft next to her, she puts her arm around my neck and brings her lips to a place above my ear. “You did a good job,” she says. “You really did.”

8 responses to “True or False: I Am the Reason My Niece and Nephew Will Have to Wear Gasmasks at Their Children’s Graduation Ceremonies”

  1. jarock74 jarock74 says:

    Sounds like my 5 year old daughter, She’s very earth conscious. Nice to know the PBS propaganda machine is working. 😉

  2. acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

    eco-anxiety. is that when you get out of bed in the middle of the night to fetch a soup can out of the garbage, strip the label off, rinse out the can, and then toss both in their respective recycling bins in the garage? no? that’s just me? oh.

  3. kfrayz kfrayz says:

    Eco-anxiety: You purposely take your car off the road for one year, and walk EVERYWHERE, feeling complete eco-superiority! Suddenly, a family member gets an SUV and when they go out of town you drive the *hit out of it! You love every minute of it! Out of fear someone will spot you and tell Mama Earth, you wear big dark glasses and a “I Heart Gore” T-shirt!

  4. Avatar lee lee says:

    this blog reminds me of “Hills Like White Elephants.” in a way, that’s where we are now. abortion is so last-season. now, it’s all about back-alley recycling…

  5. jasonleary jasonleary says:

    I’m glad I am not alone in my sleepless nights. Thank you for this great piece.

  6. Avatar ecrussell says:

    Attention, the “Green Ethics” category has been sacked. New topic: ECO-ANXIETY.
    I LOVE that term… but need more time to think about it…

  7. Avatar Garrett says:

    Hm, I really enjoyed your writing here. It expresses the paralysis necessary for keeping any large population in fear. The formula is similar to that used to scare everyone into thinking about nuclear war, or the rapture, or the end of the world.
    1. Make up some larger-than-life problem that no one could ever possibly think of doing something about.
    2. Get everyone on Urth stirred up about it.
    3. Convince everyone that there is nothing they can do about it, but that they better do everything they can.
    4. Harvest all the cash you want by selling remedies, t-shirts, and other items to protect from Terror, Comets, aliens, Jesus 2.0, nukes, or whatever. Also, outsource T-shirts from Malaysia for people to identify with various causes of the day.
    Wow, I gotta dream up some vast catastrophes to get people worried about. I could get a grant for that, right?
    Cheers, and thanks for that depiction of eco-anxiety.

  8. Hi, nice posts there 🙂 express

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angelatav About angelatav

On the eve of her 30th birthday, Angela Tavares found black metal, and life has been awesomely grim ever since. When she’s not walking the forests on cold winter nights or crafting inverted crosses with twigs and twine, she’s writing a novel, like everyone else you know. On an unrelated note, she talks for every animal she meets, a habit she’s finding hard to quit, and loves Greek yogurt.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2009
Season Finale
November 2009
{Seven Deadly} Sins
October 2009
Mischief Making
September 2009
Green Ethics
August 2009