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Published:July 22nd, 2009 18:23 EST
Empty Cans

Empty Cans

By Ed Roberts

I sit here at my desk

Look across my one-room apartment

What`s left of it anyway

Dishes are stacked in the sink

From God knows when

My clothes in a pile on the floor

Next to the mattress

I used to have a real bed

But that was a lifetime ago

And the floor is covered

By so many empty cans


I get out of my broken chair

Open the trash bag

And begin


This can was my school

I had it all

A scholarship

A dorm room

I did the classes

The books

The whole works

It`s so hard to picture me there now

I`m not sure when it happened

When the parties became more important

Than the classes

When friends changed

Into people I got drunk and stoned with

This can has been empty for a while now

And there`s not a drop I can still taste

I put the can in the bag


This can was my job

The one I got

When I finally decided I didn`t need school anymore

I could make money

With what I had learned already

The salary was nice

I bought the new car

I even bought a house

Everything was going great

Parties after work until two

Weekends that washed through Mondays

Except I had to start working ten hour days

When the market started changing

And the pressure at work kept building

Until everything burst

We first were told about the downsizing

Then came the layoffs

Then they said the whole company was moving

Problem was

They weren`t taking me with them

I found my friends slowly disappearing

All that was left was me

Yes, this can is empty now too

I put it in the bag


This can is Sheila

She was my high school sweetheart

We had so many plans

So many dreams

She was my first

My one

My only

She even followed me to college

Even though she could have gotten a scholarship

At a better school

She tried to stay with me

Even after the company left

But I closed that door

One too many phone calls at three in the morning

Asking for money to take her out

I don`t blame her

I`d throw that can away myself

I put it into the bag


This can is special

It is my sister Mary

Growing up we were so close

We did so many things together

Took care of each other

She was there for me when I left for college

I`d call her almost every day

She stood behind me when I decided it was time

To leave school

She was the first person I invited to my house

She stayed with me

Even after Sheila left

She left checks at the office

To pay my rent

She even called my old priest

To stop by for a visit

I don`t think he will ever forgive me for the words I used

As I slammed the door in his face

No, this can is so special

It stayed full the longest

Mary left last night

I was taking too much

Too much time

Too much money

She couldn`t give anymore

Her home was at stake

Her marriage on the line

She had to make a choice

And it couldn`t be me

I didn`t understand then

I threw a bottle at her

As she turned to walk to the door


I woke this morning

When the phone rang

She is doing ok

No, her husband isn`t going to press charges

I don`t have to worry about that

But I was lying on the floor

When the phone rang

With this empty can on floor

Not two feet from my face

And I finally realized

It was the last one I had

I pressed it to my lips

Held it there until my lips bled

But there was not a single drop left


So now I`m going through my apartment

Picking up the empties

Naming each one

And putting them in this bag

No, not to take to curbside

I did that so long ago

This time I`m going to straighten them

The best I can

And fill them

No matter if it is with my blood or my tears


Yes, these cans might be bent and faded

I know they will never be new again

But hopefully they will still hold

A little of what I need


All I know


Is that I can`t be empty

And stay here



Ed Roberts