It's that time: 10:21 pm. Before sleeping, I have a cigarette on the porch. It's just a few puffs, a few stubs, then off to a bed in a cold room (warmth should only be found in the comforter). It's Thursday, so a trash bin that was emptied by a garbage collector earlier that day is on the side of the road. As I decide to retrieve it the following morning (don't want to shake off this sleepy feeling with too much movement), something unexpected happens.
A man walking his dog in one hand and carrying a full poop bag in the other crosses the street, stops by my bin, looks around, doesn't see me (I'm concealed by a shadow falling from the awning over my home's door), doesn't see anyone, opens my bin, drops his green poop bag in it, and walks away like nothing happened. At that point—my eyes following the relieved dog walker—a major part of my soul, the part formed in a city and region I've spent most of my life in (30 years), rises and grips my imagination.
I looked at my black bin, black in the night, the dark trees rising to Beacon Hill, the planes heading to Sea-Tac, the cold stars, and realized with underworld pleasure that I could leave the shadow over my home's main door, and make a lot of noise about pulling the bin (rattling plastic wheels, plodding steps, huffs and puffs of late-winter air) back to my yard. The offending dog owner would hear me doing all of this. He would know I saw him drop the poop on me. He might even turn and see me dragging it from the side of the road. And that is all I wanted from him; to let him know that I knew who he really was; that I knew "the content of his character." A real citizen, a person directed by the civil spirit, would have disposed of their dog poop properly.
If I had done this at that moment (and the dog walker was only a few meters down the sidewalk), it would have been the famous Seattle mode of passive aggressiveness in a state of perfection. It was all there for me to pluck like a huge humid nightblue fruit from the serpent's tree. It's dark juices and satanic sweetness all over my face. But I did not do it. I opened the door and closed it after entering my home. Why did I miss the opportunity to fully express my Pacific Northwesternness? Was I reverting to my original Zimbabweanness? I was also raised on the East Coast. Maybe that part of my soul was asserting itself. DC-straightforwardness? Don't play that passive-aggressive shit anymore. Say it like it is. Walk out of the shadow and tell that motherfucker: "Get your poop bag out of my motherfucking bin!" Was that it? What could it be?
It was, actually, this alone: The very idea of making the dog walker aware of the bin's owner's presence, eyes, and state of mind was so vivid that it satisfied all of my passive-aggressive needs and more. If the impression of the poop offense was weak, then I would have certainly left the shadow, and put the whole PNW performance into motion. But my imagination did not need the real world at this point. Indeed, it might have been a touch excessive (my Britishness coming out). I knew precisely the pleasure to be had by the act. How could reality improve on that? The lesson in all of this, and the one I took to bed in the cold room? No need to do what the imagination can more than do.