the collector got robbed

On my route to the coffee shop each morning, just past I-95 and before the soccer field, there’s a little nest of trees that a local homeless person has closed off with his shopping cart. The cart looks like something outta The Road. It’s packed beyond capacity and the load is held down by bungees. It’s mostly fulla clothes but he’s got purses and lunchboxes in there too. Food. Hats.        

            A strange collection.

            I wonder every day, as I pass it, why he’s chosen to hold on to these particular things.

            Does he use some of these things to barter with other homeless people?

            Is he hoping to sell some of this stuff?

            Is it a byproduct of illness, something obsessive?

            He positions the cart, usually, so that it creates a fourth wall to the nest of trees, and he sleeps in the shade of it all day, on a bed of towels and tarps.

            I always peek over the flooding cart to see if he’s sleeping in that little nest (it’s exactly the sorta nook I’d seek out and hide in as a kid). Past couple days, I’ve seen the cart, but the dude’s not there.

            Then this morning I walked by the spot and his cart was overturned and shoved a few yards back. The bungees had been unfastened and its contents rifled through, tossed around.

            Maybe the collector’s dead. Maybe he got arrested. Maybe he just took a temporary trek to some other part of town. But I’m wondering about how long it must’ve taken him to accumulate that collection, and imagining how crushed and dejected he might feel when he comes back and sees it decimated. Violated.

            He’s lugged this thing around for so long, slept in the shade of it, eaten from it.

            How could it not amount, at this point, to so more for him than the sum of its contents?

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