In Which Our Hero Attempts a Zero-Waste Lifestyle
By Maya Weed
Verily Veritas had always
run a tight ship.
It was a trait he had inherited from his father, Vergil Verily Veritas IV. Protective of the fleeting minutes of youth, he had taught young Verily the virtues of rigorous routines. As numerous late-night journal
entries on customized packs of ivory-toned, loose-leaf parchment paper indicate, both the form and the content of Verily’s inner monologues rivaled the pampered efficiency of cut-throat investment banker Patrick Bateman. Today, however, Verily would insist that his similarities with Bateman ceased at their penchant for precision. To prove so, he would point to the modest lifestyle he had recently adopted, which contrasted starkly with the character’s rabid, late-80s materialism.
“I say, what do your chums think of you when they see this flotsam?” V.V.V. IV had inquired on a stuffy summer afternoon last week. (He was uptown for … Verily did not know what.) He pointed to the mini waste bins at the foot of the bed, overflowing with Synergy Kombucha bottle carcasses that, Verily remembered with shame, had taken just three days to accumulate.
“Chums! Am I correct that the lot of them are constipated environmentalists? I thought your generation bonded over your inevitable climate refugeeism. What do they have to say about you, then, about all this … waste?” His eyebrow cocked on that final word.
Verily reflected on his indulgent tendencies in that moment, tendencies that often got him into trouble with his “chums.” And now, with his father. The clutter of his living quarters began to clutter his otherwise empty brain. He plunged into fits of melancholy, pondering the harm that his minuscule life had caused in the cosmic opera of the planet.
The following nights, whenever Verily turned off his antique lamps, his towers of personal possessions mutated into shadowy, grotesque goblins in every corner of his dorm room. But Verily was no David Bowie. He was not powerful enough to tame this goblin horde fit to fill at least three blue bins. They haunted his dreams, joined by the jeering chorus of single-use items in his waste buckets (such as his daily disposable monocle wipes and mini-tubes of artisanal shaving cream imported from Milan).
Verily recoiled in disgust at all this stuff. Not only did his amassing of trash and trinkets serve as evidence of his unsustainable consumerism, but, more importantly, it disrupted the feng shui of his treasured Hartley single. He decided it was time to, once again, ramp up the rigor of his routine.
A chronic sufferer of compulsive article reading, Verily spent the next thirteen hours of a beautiful summer’s day poring over countless online blogs that outlined the best practices to live a life of zero waste. Quickly, he realized that to pare down his output, he needed to first embark on a purchasing spree.
“Want to Reduce Your Waste to Zero? Well, it won’t happen overnight,” one title read.
“Do you know who my father is?” Verily scoffed. “Watch me.”
He stood in front of his warped mirror, feet planted like Wonder Woman: “For the good of Earth.” He patted himself on the back.
Verily grasped his leather satchel and faced the world he wished to save.
The smoldering heat of the New York City streets only fueled the fire of his mission. Exhaust fumes, tumbleweeds of plastic bags, and styrofoam cups danced around his thoughts like cartoonish, ghostly specters. He turned to his list to sharpen his focus. Items included but were not limited to:
1. A Hiking Backpack
Verily would donate his current backpack to the University’s pantry. He selected a hiking bag for its ability to hold any number of reusable tupperware containers—to store waste that may require unique disposal methods only available at specified locations. This way, if he ordered a meal while out on the town, he could utilize his own serving supplies and transport leftovers while still leaving enough room for his tender and swollen self-worth.
2. Mason jars
Verily had a Pinterest account (as we all do). He was aware of the fashionably rustic social points he could score with the deployment of mason jars. He always balked at going full hipster, if he could use the term unironically outside of the millennial population—but he desired a scruffiness to his edges that, to his chagrin, did not compliment his bone structure.
Verily nevertheless tingled while picturing this potential version of himself: Verily the Crunchy, the kids would say. He imagined ordering an iced matcha latté under the warm lighting of Butler’s Blue Java Café, offering up his mason jar and handmade grass straw to the barista as peers gazed in awe at his earthy aura. They would then tap his shoulder and remark something akin to “Kudos to you, my friend.”
“Why thank you, my chum,” he would humbly nod.
If only, Verily dreamed.
This item truly led Verily into unfamiliar territory. Determined, he ventured downtown to the Lower East Side Ecology Center to acquire packs of red wiggler worms destined to decompose his detritus. He considered how he should address these worms. They would be living and dining with him, after all. Verily prided himself on his social etiquette.
He knew he could not possibly christen every wriggler, but as he visited Hungarian on his journey back to campus, jar at the ready, a working list of names whirred in his mind. His new backpack carried the rest of his eco-conscious collection. Lawrence Holloway, Theodore K. Wickham, Mitchem Pilsner Jr., Vlad the Rad, Chad, Conrad Galahad—
Verily felt a tap on his shoulder through his Brooks Brothers polo. Is it happening?? Is now my moment to shine?
He held his breath in anticipation of praise. Of kudos. Carefully readjusting the angle of his body so as not to shove any queuers with his backpack, he locked eyes with the tapper.
Laude Lacuna. Verily’s freshman roommate.
“Dear Verily,” Laude smirked.
Verily felt a chilled draft wisp through the air whenever he conversed with Laude, even on a balmy day in June. He grew to suspect, unkind as it may be, that Laude’s soul was lacking—as in, he lacked one. He was a bit of a shapeshifter, see. The two had gotten along in their roommate honeymoon era, but Verily soon felt as though Laude fed on his very lifeblood for survival. Along with his wardrobe, Laude’s vocal cadence and choice of conversational diction cloned Verily’s carefully cultivated persona (a family effort not so easily eclipsed). It frankly freaked him out beyond measure. Ever since, Laude had periodically selected new subjects of social imitation. Who was the real Laude Lacuna? Verily wondered if anyone would ever know. This month, he appeared to be Joseph Greenwell.
Channeling the bow-tied Vice President for Student Affairs, Laude eyed Verily’s hiking gear. “Looking to stay connected to nature while in Morningside Heights? Well, at 4:30 on Tuesday there will be an informational Zoom panel on—”
“No, no, in fact, I—”
“Reach out if you have any questions! Another event …”
Laude’s eyes pierced straight through him as he droned on in email jargon.
Verily began to better understand Patrick Bateman. He questioned the choices that brought him to this juncture, his aspiration to live a life of zero waste. He was showing promise. If only he could gather his wits alongside his new gizmos and follow through. Alas, here he was, wasting time waiting for coffee with Laude Lacuna—
I’m wasting time, Verily realized. The most precious commodity of all! If this was the life he was to choose, he would have to fully submerge himself in the mire.
He suddenly felt every tick of the second-hand tock in his heirloom watch. How many lives could have been saved from climate crises in the minutes he stood in line with Laude, or in the hours he had spent deliberating over the healthiest-looking worm bag in the Lower East Side Ecology Center? My God. It was then that Verily vowed: No more squandered seconds. No more transcendental meditation Tuesdays or Faulkner recitation Fridays. No more filet mignon Mondays. No more.
“My apologies, but there’s no time to waste!” Verily triumphed aloud.
He suddenly broke out of the queue and trotted away, leaving Laude preaching to a column of air.
If Verily could’ve swung his satchel around his backpack and clicked his heels together like a Newsie, he would’ve, for never before did he feel so ready to carpe the diem. Inspired nonetheless, he started to run (yes, run) along Amsterdam all the way back to Hartley, only stopping to snatch scraps of litter in his path. Speed-cleaning demon, that’s what I am, Verily mused. I am the Crunchy Climate Cleaner, and I will earn the kudos of every soon-to-be-chum of mine on campus, you bet your bottom dollar, father—
Back in his room, as carefully as he could at warp-speed, Verily unloaded his backpack and began setting up the vermicomposting station. He broke the seal on the worm container like he was performing a cesarean section and delivered the wrigglers into their new world.
“Greetings, fellow crusaders,” Verily welcomed them. He allowed his heart rate to slow ever so slightly. “Let’s get crunchin’.”