Sunday, May 13, 2012

I Am Not a Litterbug


Littering on my island is unavoidable, since waste oollection is nonexistent away from town. Every once in awhile, a garbage truck passes by on the highway, but it doesn't stop. So everyone burns their trash, which means that the perfectly clean ocean air I breathe gets smoky in the mornings when dead leaves and trash are swept into a pile and set ablaze.

I sometimes walk down the highway (as I just did from my house to this cybercafé) and buy candies - gob-stoppers for when I'm on the computer - from a sari-sari store. When I unwrap them I put the wrappers in my pocket and dispose of them when I return home. I do this even though the ground I walk on is often littered with candy wrappers. One more wrapper down there on the ground wouldn't even be noticed. But I never drop them because of a memory of my mother that won't let me do it.

I was maybe ten years old, sitting in the back seat of my family car. My mother was driving. We were on Fort Jackson, driving the slow speed limit. I had just finished eating the contents of a small bag of potato chips, and without thinking I tossed it out of the rolled-down window. My mother saw what I had done and put on the brakes. (Luckily there were no other cars behind us.) My mother told me to get out of the car and walk back to where I had thrown the empty bag, pick it up, and bring it with me back to the car. I was quite ashamed, getting out of the car, walking back to the empty bag on the ground, and walking all the way back.

My mother didn't say another word and we drove away. But nearly forty-four years later, I remember it like it was yesterday. Aside from remembering her every now and then, I often dream of her. She wasn't perfect, but she did some things perfectly, like that day when I was ten.

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