A One-Day Travelcard, an Oyster. A packet of gum, each. Crisp packets. Beer bottles. A Mars Bar wrapper fluttering after the last tube. Two condoms.
Train tickets, plane tickets, pizza boxes, fish and chip paper. Ribbons and cellophane from flowers. Gift wrap, carrier bags. Labels cut out of fancy underwear, careful not to nick the silk. Condoms, different kinds. Tissues, vodka bottles. More condoms, the kind you decide you prefer.
Bin bags of stuff not looked at in two years. Bin bags full of rubbish. Bin bags of things you outgrew, things that won’t belong together. Too many bin bags to put out for the bin men. You sneak out after dark and share them round the new neighbours’ piles, laughing. Wine bottles. Condoms.
Pieces of cardboard longer than you are, with the round dents of casters. Bubble wrap that leaves your hands dry and squeaky. Other people’s discarded furniture. Scraped paint, surprisingly heavy. An old bath. A toilet. Lampshades and mildewed curtains. A cache of old tights.
A pregnancy test, then another. Tampons and booze bottles. Condoms again.
A car that seized up for lack of oil – whose job was that? – towed away for scrap. The plastic off the seats of a new one, why not? Phone boxes, TV boxes, computer boxes. Boxes from kitchen appliances. Boxes ten times the size of the things that came in them. Polystyrene worms that stick to the wall. Little white balls, hail indoors. Condoms. Containers for cleaning products, shampoo, medicines. Two CD collections, you’ve gone digital. Dry cleaning wrappers. Cleansing wipes, cotton buds. All of the plaster chipped off a wall to reveal the stone beneath. Better wine bottles, real corks. Gadgets no longer desired. Garden waste, a whole new bin. Vacuum cleaner emptyings. Things with no name.
A pregnancy test, then another. One more for luck. Champagne bottle, vitamins. New kinds of packaging: pushchair, car seat, cot, electric mobile, baby gym, twenty-seven miniature sleepsuits, monitor.
Nappies. Nappies and nappies and nappies, on and on. So many nappies. Baby wipes, make everything clean. Containers from formula milk. Condoms, not as many. Too many bin bags to put out for the bin men. You sneak out after dark and share them round the neighbours’ piles, silently.
A pregnancy test, then another. One more for luck. Champagne bottle, vitamins. This time it’s a boy so the packaging’s blue. Nappies nappies nappies nappies.
Property pages, printouts. Bin bags of stuff not looked at in four years. You don’t bother to conceal the bin bags this time, nobody cares.
Enough sheets of cardboard to contain a whole kitchen, because they did. Old cabinets piled in a skip. The skip is taken, who knows where?
Boxes come faster and faster, never fast enough. Ticket stubs pushed deep and hidden. Shirts that smell wrong. Receipts that don’t add up. Wine bottles overflowing. No condoms, not here.
Dead umbrellas, dead pushchairs, dead highchairs, dead baby bouncers, dead coathangers. All the spindly, insubstantial things left behind when we’re gone.
LIZ JONES writes novels and short stories, and is currently studying part-time for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She also works as a freelance editor of non-fiction. She lives in Somerset with her family. Find her on Twitter: @ljedit
Image: Noel Bauza via Pixabay