Marcello the Garbage Man

Interview by
William Van Meter
Photography by
Slava Mogutin


I met 22-year-old gay Puerto Rican triplet garbage man Marcello at The Cock in New York in December last year, on my birthday. He was drinking cranberry and vodka, which is a surprisingly faggy drink for someone like him, but at least it was in a plastic cup and not a cosmo glass. Marcello took a break from slinging garbage and getting his weekly haircuts to break it down for me.

William: You were born in New York right?
Marcello: Correct. I was born in New York, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Baruch Projects on Houston and FDR Drive.
When did you start your job?
I started last year in June, around the second week of June. My brother-in-law set me up with the interview. I had to talk my way into letting the super like me, and I gave him the bullshit ‘I have a child coming’ excuse. I cried wolf.
When people ask you what you do, you always tell them that you’re a garbage man, don’t you?
With pride.
Do you have an actual title there?
Yes, my actual title is handy-boy.
Tell me about where you work. Is it a huge apartment complex?
Yes, it’s condominiums in Tudor City, and it’s basically middle class to upper class people that live in this building, so obviously the majority of the building is Caucasian. And I am one of the minorities to them.
What days of the week do you work?
Saturday through Wednesday, 11 to 8.
Are the tenants nice to you?
Some of them are and some of them aren’t. I’ve had a couple of bad experiences. There’s this one old lady, she’s 86 years old, she’s such a racist. And she’s like, ‘Go back to your country. You’re an immigrant. You should work in a tenement building. The people over there look like you.’ And I’m just like, ‘I’m just waiting for you to die you miserable old bitch.’
What are some other bad experiences you’ve had?
It is mainly with her and with another lady that gets really insulted whenever I say ‘hi’ to her. She tells me never to speak to her at all. But basically I learned my way around and I know who to speak to and who not to speak to, so I know who to avoid.
What do you have to wear to work?
I wear a gray shirt and some dark gray tight pants.
So you have different stuff to do every day?
Yeah, but it’s like every Monday I have to do the same thing, every Tuesday… That’s how I set up my day. There are things that have to be done and that I am responsible for the whole week. At times there are days where I am ordered around like ‘Do this, do that.’ But they really don’t pay attention to me, and I’m in the cut, you know what I mean? I’m just doing what I got to do. If something needs to be fixed real quick, they give me a call. But other than that, if I’m not being called, I’m handling garbage.
So you do garbage every day?
Yeah. I have to pick up, go to every floor in the building. It is a 23-story building but there are four basements, and two of the basements also have apartments, so basically 26 floors. I have to get all of the garbage out of the compactor rooms and then also in the main compactor room in the bottom. Each floor has two compactor rooms.
That must stink.
You learn to put all of the garbage on the elevator so none of the tenants will ring you. Also, it’s a freight elevator, and if you’re going through the basement entrance, the only way you can get through from the parking garage is through it. So people are constantly ringing the bell so it takes a long time. I leave it stinky, so people know, you don’t wanna ride this elevator because it always stinks. That’s my trick. I just gotta deal with the smell.
So, besides the garbage, you have to do odd jobs throughout the building.
Sometimes I do some odd jobs. Well, I don’t know what you would consider odd, because we probably consider things differently.
No, I don’t mean odd as in bizarre, but the term ‘odd jobs’. Like, various.
Oh, like sometimes I have to take off the faucet heads of some of the apartments, and I hate doing that. When the people move out and the new people want to buy it, they want everything brand new. It’s not really my job, I think, but they always ask me. There are other people for that, but it’s odd. I don’t know where that comes in. It’s wack. There’s replacing outlets and ceiling fans and fixtures and light bulbs. I hate doing that shit.
What is your least favorite chore at work?
Mopping the staircases. I have to from 22 down to D. But I stop at the 10th floor and change the water, and then I do 10 to D. That’s when I go smoke my cigarette in the locker-room bathroom.
Do you like the guys you work with?
Yeah, they’re all cool. I’m real cool with this one guy, Ron. He’s the only black one. He’s the one that taught me what to do. No one was really explaining what to do, everyone was kinda dumping their jobs on me until he schooled me, so that’s when I was like, ‘Fuck you, you do it.’ He gave me the knowledge that I needed to know. ‘This is what you do, don’t listen to them when they tell you to do this. They bein’ lazy.’
So everyday the garbage. Have you found any weird shit?
You find real weird shit. I found this bag of dildos. I looked in the bag because when
you see something like skin color, you want to look. You know what I mean? They was various shapes and sizes, different shit.
I would say like ten to thirteen dildos.
So what do you do after work?
The first thing I do is go straight home, obviously I need a bath. I take the bus or train. I stopped the cab rides home, they’re only six dollars but I am saving money ’cause I’m getting the boot in June, so I had to stop that habit. I started playing this video game recently, and I watch Justice League cartoons on the Cartoon Network.
And you go to the barber a lot.
Of course, that’s on Fridays. No, now I changed it to Thursday because I wanna look good on Friday.
Why do you get your haircut every week?
I’ve got to because the boss said I gotta keep a clean appearance.
That’s a big fat lie. You go because you wanna go because you are vain.
Yeah, I think I look good when I got a fresh shape-up, when I got everything I need — got the sideburns lookin’ proper, got the goatee connectin’, you know what I mean? The nice hairline. Yeah, you’re damn right. If I don’t have my hair done or a proper outfit I won’t go out.
Is that a Puerto Rican thing?
No, I think that’s a gay thing!
I think it’s a Puerto Rican thing. Every Rican I know gets a weekly haircut.
That’s good, I think they look good.
But I thought you didn’t like other Rican boys?
Some of them are hot, but not the ones that look like me. You know some of us have similar looks with each other.
Who do you live with?
Me, my brother and sister — I’m a triplet — and my father and step-mom.
So you’re the only gay one out of the triplets?
Which is rare. With twins and triplets they are usually all faggots rather than just
one. So your family knows and they’re cool with it?
Did you have to come out and have like an after-school-special talk with them, like ‘Dad, I’m gay!’
Not really. To my brother and sister, yeah. But my father found out because my ex’s mother called him on the phone and told him ‘I’m tired of your son coming over here and having sex with my son.’ That’s how he found out. She told him. What a bitch. I was like, ‘How did she get my number?’ I never said nothin’ to her, and she didn’t say nothin’ to me. We never spoke.
Well, maybe if you had said ‘hi’ to her, she’d be nice.
I did. She never said ‘hi’ back.
Because you were fucking her son in her house.
Well, after being with him a year, his mom and I started having our little conversations and stuff, because I was with him for like two and half years.
How old were you when you started going out with him?
Sixteen and he was nineteen.
Are you dating anyone now?
Do you have other brothers and sisters besides the triplets?
Yeah, but they’re all older. There are four other children besides the triplets: my oldest brother and three sisters and then us. We never really spent time with them. We’re real different from them because they speak Spanish, they’re very Hispanic. Whereas the triplets are very MTV generation.
How come the triplets can’t speak Spanish?
Because when we were born my grandma and my mother didn’t get along. My grandma can’t speak English and my mother didn’t want us speaking to my grandma, so she wouldn’t speak Spanish in the household.
Your mother died?
Yeah, when I was eleven.
When did your dad get remarried?
He started seeing someone like two years later. She’s a Russian lady, so this is how we learned to accept diversity, through her. Obviously we are used to things a certain way, and she has her things set.
Do you eat Russian food at home?
Not anymore, but when we were younger we had to eat what she cooked. Honestly, she’d say what it is and you wouldn’t even listen. You would just look at the plate and hope it tasted good with salt and pepper.
So tomorrow, what time do you start work?
I like to get there at least a half-hour before. Tomorrow is my easy day. I just have to maintain what I did all week. There’s a little sweeping, and a wipe-off here and there, and basically fixing shit. That’s a fix-shit day, Wednesday.
And so for tipping, every time you go to someone’s apartment to fix something, do they give you money?
Sometimes. You got the generous people who are rich and you know they’re rich because there’s money just busting out of their apartments, and we see the poor ones who just live in Tudor City because they want to say that they live in Tudor City. Sometimes you get $100 just for lifting two boxes. Penthouses, I make sure I cater to these motherfuckers, you know what I mean? You just say ‘You look great’ and they give you ten. There is this one lady, Ms. Goldberg, she’s 86 years — old, but she looks like she’s 50. She’s had I don’t know how many facelifts. She’s a great tipper. She’s a pretty old lady because she still does herself up. She has energy. She was a Broadway showgirl. I’m sure she had to work out and be fit, and that’s why she’s not like those other ones, out of shape and stuff.
Has anyone from the building tried to fuck you?
Because that’s like the stereotypical fantasy, to have the handyman come over for sex.
I really don’t even make eye contact. I just get in and get out.
Any foxes living in the building?
Yeah, there are plenty. But work life and my personal life are two separate things. I’m a different person over there. I’m not the person you see sitting in front of you right now.

Originally published in BUTT 10