Recycling

by Thaddeus Rutkowski

Late in the afternoon
I walk to our building’s front hallway
and hear the fire door open.
I see a man coming from the back,
from the garbage platform.
I’m standing between him
and a large bag propped in a corner.
He’s carrying another large bag,
and the clinking sounds coming from it
tell me he has scavenged
our recycled bottles for refunds.
I don’t know how he got through
two locked doors at the front.
He must have snuck in.

I move back.  I don’t want him to wait
for me to open my mailbox.
“You go ahead,” I say to him.
He’s older than I am, and he’s Asian
of some sort, but I don’t ask what sort.
I just stand there, while he lifts both bags
of empty bottles — worth a nickel apiece.
He says, “Thank you.”