We share the same beginnings. We were made to contain, and contain we did. Within each of us churned a small ocean of fizzling energy, eagerly awaiting its moment of release. Some of us still hold our saccharine essence. Others are long empty, having forgotten the feeling of a gentle slosh.
Here we sit with newfound purpose, disposable no more. We’re something else entirely now. We rest in a museum, icons of our brand’s long history.
Some of us are more than just collectibles. Some of us have grandiose stories. Look there, three down from me on the right. This one was discovered on a beach, hidden in the sand after being resealed with great care. The short letter inside tells a tale of survival. It ends well–“Don’t look for me,” it says. “I’m happy, healthy, and befriended the gulls.” The note is fiction, of course, written by a bored playwright during a lunch meeting, but what does it matter? The message sits alongside its former flask and still makes people smile.
Now keep going, two more down. This one’s still sealed, a collectible through and through. A proudly labeled commemorative edition made to celebrate a new bottling plant. It sat on an important desk at headquarters for most of its life. This one has heard everything. Small talk, gossip, office politics, marketing strategies, harassment, and the best kept corporate secrets. The company has many enemies, and this one knows them all. We often ask to hear its stories, always to little avail. It says it’s waiting to be opened. We’re in for a long wait.
On the other wall is the oldest one here. Our common ancestor. It’s more cylindrical than the rest of us, created long before we were given our iconic contour. It likes to reminisce about the world gone by, when pennies made all the difference and were never cast aside. It rambles about value–its value, our value, the value of the dollar–as if needing to constantly reinforce a sense of self-worth while scoffing loudly at the times. Present day is hardest for the old ones. Everything has changed.
A few more past the old fellow and you’ll find our aluminum friend. It’s among the youngest here, still stuck in an ongoing identity crisis. Is it a bottle? Is it a thinly-veiled can? Could it have once been a can? Recycled, reshaped, and reborn, a synthetic phoenix rising from its own ashes? Someday the questions will pass. It’ll decide to be one, the other, or maybe even both. Some ignore the crisis, but most of us try to be supportive. The drama will be over soon, I think. Our friend will find itself soon enough.
Now, come back. All the way back to me. I’m one of the lucky ones with a story. I was stolen. Taken half-full from a little girl in the middle of a bank robbery. The remainder of my contents were emptied on a police car’s windshield during the escape. I was nearly used as a weapon when the gangster’s gun ran dry. He held me aloft as he flung himself from the crashed ’34 Sedan. Of course, the police still had plenty of ammunition. Once a few pictures of the scene were taken, they pried me from his cold, dead hands.
But enough about me. What I really want you to see is my favorite, just to the left. It’s broken. Very broken, a jagged mess of spiky shards. The most experienced jugglers in the world wouldn’t dare to give this one a single toss. It stole the show at a wedding, shattering just after the best man’s toast. He went to clink bottles with the groom, and clink they did. The bride found herself awash in the midst of it. There’s even a Polaroid of the aftermath, her dress soaked and stained by my broken friend. “How awful,” people say, but it was really quite the moment. A wedding to never forget. The couple kept it as a souvenir for a while, but donated it to the exhibit so others could enjoy the tale. They sometimes visit on their anniversary to laugh about it all.
There are so many of us here, and we’re quite the motley crew. We’ve all had our own journey. Many came to be here as valued collectibles, others would’ve be thrown away if not for having stories of their own. Our new purpose is a good one. We get to be enjoyed for a much longer time than we were ever supposed to be. Frankly, it’s this or recycling, so I guess we can’t complain.
ETHAN HEDMAN conjures ideas, writes words, and shares stories. His work can be found on EthanHedman.com.