We have all heard the stories about the babies left in dumpsters. Mothers giving birth in the bathroom at the prom. These stories are all too common. We think, “oh that’s horrible, who would do that to a baby?” By the next commercial break we are forgotten. I say ‘we’ because my friends and I are those forgotten and abandoned. Sasha, she was the youngest, I found her myself, not in a cliche dumpster, abandoned in the garbage nonetheless. As the eldest of our group, I was out on a quest for food. Crossing the bridge from the town where I lifted the half dozen frozen bean burritos, to the woods we called home, I heard a distant wailing scream coming from the litter strewn stream. On the bank where old rusty appliances and stolen shopping carts were dumped, in a decaying truck tire half embedded in the dirt, with rancid water pooled within the tire, and lying half submerged and covered in mosquitoes, lay a tiny pink screaming baby.
That was three years ago. Sasha was never even given a name, she chose her own. Many of us, myself included, were left with a hand written note. Instruction manuals for how to care for a child, written by an unknown mother who had no clue herself. Mine said, “please take care of my child, Jeremiah, tell him I am sorry I could not bare seeing him grow up like I did. Tell him I love him.” It was signed simply “Jane” I was found in a cardboard box, at the employee entrance to a casino. I always figured I was left there because I was bad luck. I always pictured this Jane, as a high rolling gambler, who lost millions on a bet on the day of my birth. I was found by a sweet young woman, a poker dealer. I always wondered if Jane intended this woman to take me in. She didn’t however. Nothing hurts the abandoned more than to be abandoned again by your rescuer. I was turned over to an orphanage. I don’t remember much, I walked away not long after I learned to walk. I wasn’t alone however. Three of us left together. David, he wasn’t an abandoned, just an unwanted. He was older, almost fourteen. Then there was Mary. She was abandoned too. Although she was slightly younger, she was the strongest of us all. Mary was the one who told us to run, and run we did. We have lived in these woods ever since.
David however is gone now. He was not one of us abandoned, but we accepted him anyhow. He was troubled. More troubled than any of us. He lived to be fifteen. That was longer than anyone expected from any of us. I truly believe that when most people see stories on the news about newborns found abandoned, they don’t give us another thought because they assumed we would be dead soon anyway. David, he was unwanted, not abandoned, he knew who his mother was. He was given to his grandmother to be raised. By five she too wanted nothing to do with him, his fate was decided by signatures on forms. He watched as both his mama and nana signed his life away. David left us in the middle of the night, walked out of the forest, to the highway. That was where David met Mack. Mack was the grill of a ten ton speeding truck. We woke up to find David at the end of a sickening smear of blood bone and skin mashed into every crack and crevice of the formerly grey cement highway. David would not truly be gone, not in our eyes, until a week later when the rain washed away his stain. That stain is how I now remember him.
With David gone, I was now the eldest. Followed by Tom, born without a left arm, found in a feces filled basement of an abandoned building, turned into a crackhouse. Then there was Bella and Bianca, though they were unrelated, at least as far as we knew, these two were like sisters, twins even, with an unnatural closeness and bond. Then came little Joey, little in both age and size, Joey was a dwarf, or little person, at nine years old, his best friend Chelsea towers over him although she was just seven. Now we have Sasha, she may have only been hours old.
We are the abandoned, living in the forest, forgotten. We live by any means necessary. When the world abandons you, you care little for the world. We would lie, cheat, and steal to get by. Sometimes we could panhandle, a hungry dirty child with tears in their eyes can make a lot of money just by asking. This only worked so often. If they saw you begging once they would feel pity and fork over enough for a full days meals, but if they saw you more often, compassion and empathy was replaced by suspicion and assumption. The starving child transformed into a scamming grifter, by simply being hungry more often than once. So we stole, we never felt it was wrong, only necessary. Why should we feel bad for taking when we had everything taken from us? The town was a small college town. The good things about college towns are, the residents recycle every few years, and college students are wasteful. With only a handful of shops to steal from, much of our nutritional needs came out of dumpsters. We had gotten into the habit of knocking on the lid then announcing ourselves, knock knock “is there a one in there?” We would laugh as if it was a game, but collectively would hold our breath as the lid lifted open letting the light in, and the stench out. We didn’t hold our breath because of the smell, we just always expected to see a lifeless baby, discovered too late to be saved. With the exception of Sasha, none were ever to be found. I suppose we are a rare and special club after all. For us, being abandoned seemed normal. Seeing happy families together made us uncomfortable. Like they were the ones that were out of place.
We were a club, a family, a micro society. We were all we had. We were all we needed. Bella called us the dumpster club, a name I liked a lot. Bianca refused to call us that, it was the only thing they ever disagreed about. Bianca, who was most likely Hispanic, insisted we were just “the family.” Bianca always had a way of getting what she wanted, so the family we became. Late at night when the others slept, Tom, Bella and I would joke about being a family, with the surname dumpster. Before David and I escaped the home, we had watched tv. There was a show with royals who behaved very proper, late at night we would imitate them. “Care for a spot of tea milady dumpster.” “Sir dumpster, you honor me with your presence” and so on. Oh how we laughed imagining the dumpster family as rulers, nobles, the rich and the famous. We had a strange way of romanticizing our situation. We were unburdened by loved ones and family, so we were masters of our own worlds. We were better than those who abandoned us, because we never abandoned each other. All hail the dumpster king and his court in all their filthy glory.
Prom night. Collectively we called it our birthday, even though out of the seven of us, less than half of us were born on that day. Prom night was coming. Would there be another scared teen hiding a secret pregnancy beneath an oversized hoodie, giving birth all alone beneath the bleachers? Would it be fear of driving away the abusive asshole sperm donor that would lead her to toss away her offspring? Or might it be fear of disappointing overbearing parents, or the loss of innocence and freedom? Maybe she would hold it long enough to name it before a tearful goodbye? Would there be a note? A name? Or would she hurry to dispose of the evidence and rush back to her date before he got angry, or took another girl to the bathroom for an unwanted quickie?
When prom night came, we went on patrol. The younger kids, or I should say smaller, to include little Joey, could walk into town and keep an eye on the high school. Bella, Bianca, Tom and I would steal a couple bikes, we would ride all night till we checked every trash can, cardboard box, ditch, and dumpster in the county, that was within walking distance of the four other schools serving the county.
We have yet to find one, other than Sasha, and that was purely by chance. We will never rest however, as long as scared mommas are throwing away babies, we will be ready to be on the rescue. Our dumpster family will grow, and grow, till the abandoned outnumber the wanted, and then we will take over. We will be in control. At least that’s the lie we tell ourselves to feel like we are the special ones.
I began to believe in myself. I had a tribe. In my mind I would be a king. We were the heroes of the stories we told ourselves. Sasha, being barely a toddler now, had the most active imagination. Living our lives as outcasts in the forest, imagination replaced all the mundane normal things the wanted got to partake in. While they wasted time in play and study, we practiced stick fighting, and using our super powers. Sasha, in her overactive imagination believed with all her heart we were heroes, and as such she assigned us each a power we were meant to perfect. As hard as I tried, I could never jump over a tree. I sure could climb fast when Sasha was distracted, then from the highest branches yell down “I almost made it that time.” Honestly, Joey, being so small was the only one to master his ability. Invisibility is easy when you can hide behind most anything.
So that is our history, no longer a mystery. The unaborted, unplanned and unwanted. The ones who survived from dumpster to dumpster. Those who found purpose in being unwanted and abandoned. I am the dumpster king, beware the rise of the garbage pail kid army. Being forgotten means you will never see us coming.