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Rear View Mirror: Bin Bag Black

Tony Schumacher watches a home unravel

Written by . Published on September 29th 2011.

Rear View Mirror: Bin Bag Black

THERE is black, and then there is really black.

There is the black that is like a school blazer in July, faded by twelve months of sunshine and rain, shiny in parts and slightly grey at the elbows, its darkness worn away by a year of climbing trees, hanging on chairs and pretending to be a goal post.

 I think he just wanted me to go. So I did, with a twenty pence tip that embarrassed us both
Other blacks are just purple on an off-day, like those delicate “black” roses they try to pass you off with, the ones were you can see the colour just below the surface, cheating its way out.

But the best blacks are just black. Black with no depth, black that is almost invisible, difficult to focus on and cold to the soul. The sort of black that sucks the light out of the air and makes you shiver at the thought of touching it. The blackness of a horse pulling a hearse. The blackness of the sea to a sailor lost at night, the blackness of a bedroom to a child awake at two in the morning or the blackness of an inky Mersey millpond.
Bin bag black.

Door With Bank Notice
I spotted the bin bags in the path as I pulled up; they were dotted down the drive like those papier-mâché boulders they used to have on Star Trek for the aliens to throw at Kirk. They looked half full and strewn in a way that suggested they been tossed in anger. For a moment I thought I may have stumbled into a domestic with an errant husband collecting his life as he fled from his wife.

But no sooner had I pulled up when the front door opened and my fare waved and mouthed “two minutes”.

Not for the first time in this job, my head sank to my chest. I’ve never understood folk who will try to move house in a cab. Once, many years ago, a lady asked me could she fit a two-seater couch in the back of my car. I told her to “hire a van, love”, to which she replied, squinting over my shoulder: “Maybe I can get it on the roof?”

“It’s not the Beverley Hillbillies!”

“It’s twenty quid for a man with a van.”

“So you rang me?”

“I’m only going round the corner.”

“You are going round the bend, love. Next time buy a couch with bigger castors... and an engine.” I said as I pulled away.

This time I gathered myself, got out and opened the boot.

“Are there many more bags mate?” my spirits going down faster than the lid went up.
“Just this lot and two boxes in the house. I’m sorry I know it’s a pain in the arse,” he replied, and he meant it. I could tell by his face, this was a guy who was enjoying his task less than me.

I walked up the path and grabbed two of the bin bags, and, in best buy bin bag fashion, the first one split and gave birth to assorted socks and undies all over the floor.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” we both said, as he peeled off another bag from a roll and we picked up the clothes.

“I didn’t think this day could get any worse,” he said as we tried to manoeuvre the old bag in to the new like two clumsy surgeons. “The missus has took the kids to her mum's and left me to it.”

“Moving house is always a nightmare.”

“This is more than a nightmare,” he replied, without looking at me. “We’re being kicked out.”

“Oh no, dodgy landlord?”

“Repossessed,” he continued. “I’ve not worked in a year.”

I looked at the top of his head for a moment and then returned to stuffing duty, unsure of what to say other than: “Shit, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, glad it’s over, not worrying now,” he said unconvincingly.

When we’d loaded the rest of the bags, I followed him into the house to get the last boxes. I was surprised to see a dining table and three piece suite in a lounge that an estate agent would soon be calling “light and airy”.

“I thought there were only boxes left?” I said, nodding to the couch.

“We’ve got to leave it, no space at her mum’s,” he looked around the room, his eyes seeing the memories he was leaving with the couch. The cuddles in front of the telly, the kids bouncing on it full of vim and vigour, the drowsy Sunday afternoons on its makeshift bed. And now it just looked like a leather coffin the night before a funeral.

There is something sad about a house with no photos; they are like the tiny bits of DNA that turn it into a home. I could see the outlines on the wall where they had been, all that was left was grey ghost frames on white wallpaper; long gone, like the wife, kids and laughter they’d once caught.

We picked up the boxes and took them outside to the car, there were no neighbours to wave goodbye to as he pulled the door closed behind him for the last time. I wondered if they were watching through curtains and blinds, embarrassed to say goodbye, to further the shame and highlight the pain that was written on his face.

After he told me where we going we didn’t speak again. The journey passed in silence and sighs and, when we arrived at his mother-in-law's, he insisted I dump the bags on the kerb, saying I’d done enough. I think he just wanted me to go. So I did, with a twenty pence tip that embarrassed us both.

Later, at about 2.30 in the morning, I leaned on a railing by that Mersey river. Not so much a millpond now, instead delivering lusty slaps like a pretty girl patting the seat next to her, urging you to sit down so you could look closely into her inky black eyes.

I wondered how tempting it must be for someone under the pressure of no work, no money and an unsympathetic banker to take up the invite.

I sipped some cold coffee and shivered against the oncoming winter. It will be a long one, especially if there’s no place you can call your own.

*Follow Tony Schumacher on twitter @tonyshoey

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mrsmarsaOctober 6th 2011.

Bravo Mr S!

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