step back

A truck rolls past my window at walking pace, close to the curb, orange lights and a growling hum. I suspect it's a streetsweeper, gathering debris from the edge of the road, sucking the suburb's plastic dregs and the threads of last year's leaves into its tank.

I can't be sure, because it's covering the opposite side of the street - its operating flank is hidden from me - but I can't think it would be travelling so slowly if not to pick things up, and the ground it leaves in its wake seems clean.

Somewhere, on a local council server, I guess there's an updating map of the town indicating what's been swept and when. Either that, or some other system for tracking cleanliness as it advances and retreats across the borough, each newly vacuumed line swiftly being erased by new tides of litter, brought in by carelessness and time.

I think of this particular truck being followed by another, invisible force; one that carefully replaces the bottle caps and polythene knots and fox-strewn flecks of household waste almost as soon as they're lifted off the road, a force as gradual and as stubborn as the truck itself, destined to travel slow miles across the county before wheeling back around to start again.

Colchester 200224