All That Remains by Miles Varana


Do you ever worry you have too many plastic bags? You know what I’m talking about. The twisted polyethylene mass that grows as we speak under the kitchen sink, in the nook where you once kept that fabulous gravity bong. You’ve got quite the collection: Wal-Mart, GameStop, 7-Eleven, Panda Express, Jamba Juice. The bags are like the people from your hometown: thick, white, and transparent in key places. But unlike the people from your hometown, it hasn’t been ten years since you last saw the bags. No. You see the bags every damn day. They’re waiting for you every time you reach for dish soap, or Windex, or toilet bowl cleaner. And every time you come home to reluctantly make an addition to their ranks, the bags rustle in fervent, mocking excitement, as if aware that they will someday break from their lives of bondage in the cabinet to reach the promised land; broad, uncolonized, cigarette-reeking carpet. You can see it now. You’ll get up for work and wade, bags up to your chest, to the door. It’ll be fun, like living in the ball pit of a McDonald’s PlayPlace.

You kept the bags because you always figured that you would need them to pick up dog shit, if you ever got a dog. Five lease terms, two jobs, and three girlfriends later, there’s still no dog.

How can you use them? What goes into a plastic shopping bag after it’s emptied of the purchases that necessitated its use in the first place? Trash? Too small. Bills? Only if Bernie Sanders gets elected. Memories of Girlfriend Number Three? You already have a spot for those- it’s called the liquor cabinet.

What do other people put in their bags? What storage requirements do they have that you don’t?

One night, as you lay in fidgety pursuit of sleep, you find yourself unable to stop thinking about them. Instead of sheep, your tortured mind counts bags, leaping gracefully one-by-one over a sagging barnyard fence. At midnight, when streams of warm air begin to ebb and flow from the vent under the cabinet, you’re convinced you can hear the bags stir, as if aroused by the latticework touch of the heating system. You imagine them inflating with hot air and taking furtive flight, like electric jellyfish in a wine dark, not-so-distant sea.

In sleep-deprived delirium you drift over to your tiny bedroom window and gaze down at the city streets. They are utterly deserted, save for a single wanderer, his lonely noir silhouette illuminated far below in the moon-cheese yellow glow of street lamps as he labors onward with his cart, heavily bundled, into the deeper, windswept gloom. A chill creeps down your spine as you briefly but seriously entertain the notion that your life is, in reality, an eternally recurring Bunuel film. Why, oh why did you ever leave Canada for this?

They certainly won’t go away on their own; plastic bags, you’ve heard, can live up to a thousand years in the wild, and probably even longer in captivity.

Maybe your neighbor, Mrs. Vladislava, will take them off your hands. You knock on her door.

“Too many bags!” She exclaims. “Do you know how many bags I had when I came to this country? Zero. I had no bags! I was bag-less!”

“Look, Mrs. Vadislava…” You protest.

She cuts you off, her voice thick with a finality only widows and generals can muster.

“Young man, young man, I will not hear of it. Keep your bags. You never know when you will need them, especially at your age.”

If she won’t take them, perhaps the homeless, who you’ve noticed possess an abiding fondness for bags of all kinds, will.

Better yet, you could take them for a scenic country drive in your Toyota Corolla and then abandon them on the side of the highway. This might be the most humane way; the bags would be able to catch a ride on a westward zephyr to the other side of the continental divide, then make their way by drainage ditch and tributary to join their brethren in the Pacific.

True satisfaction, however, requires violent disposal. You could tie them to railroad tracks, drop them into a missile silo, or fill them up with someone else’s dog’s shit and light them on fire on Girlfriend Number Three’s new boyfriend’s front porch.

These are all good options, but you know it’s impossible to get all the plastic bags out the door. The problem, you see, is that you have nothing to carry them with.

Miles Varana is currently the co-managing editor of Hawai’i Pacific Review. He enjoys naps, rainy days, and copious quantities of egg nog. His work has appeared in Yellow Chair Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, and is forthcoming in Unbroken. Miles lives with his girlfriend, Alana, and their pet bunny rabbit, Cameron.