Cardboard Diaper

I came across a pile of human feces in downtown Portland. With this the stench of piss filled the block like toilet-brewed perfume. Cool air turned man muck to brown brick. There it sat like a package in an abandoned store awning. It came as no surprise. This slice of city sat littered with makeshift beds of cardboard slats and paper. The castoffs of fucked people with nowhere to go.

For years I collected hobo signs found on the street. Portland. Minneapolis. Austin. My trifecta of cities. The messages scrawled in each the same. Human despair laid bare in just a few words. Others a comedic tone employed to empty pockets. To displace pity.

In Portland I stumbled on one that someone wiped their ass with. Picked up the accordion cardboard aside a trash can. Unfolded the tome to read it. Instead was greeted with fat smears of muck. A death stench from inner depths. I dropped it in horror then scooped it back up. Scanned past feces to see what it said.

ANYTHING HELPS

  • CASH
  • FOOD
  • SMOKES

For its old owner this sign morphed from one utility to the next. From flyer to wiper. Instead of leaving it in the street I ripped around the stains. Lugged along the rest. At home I soaked it in solvent then tacked it to my wall. A new piece for my collage. But one sign in a sea of many.

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Beneath that body I fucked a few women. I remember one named M. After we finished she redressed in lingerie from the grocery store. Studied each sign. Laughed or asked for the stories behind them. Still naked I stood then gave her their histories. Rambled out yarns in excitement.

I told her how I amassed these over years. How each spoke a story. Not just of the old owner but my own quest to uncover it. How imagination spackled the gaps of all I’d never know. How once a week I spritzed the wall to battle its stench. At the end of the night I carted her home. We fucked once more then never again. I kept at my collection but found no more so slathered in filth.


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