Off The Bottle

1.

The waitress approached me and said, “sir- everyone is staring at you.” She had a look of concern on her face and for a few seconds I had no idea what she was talking about. She then looked down at my chin and it was at that moment that I realized I was sucking on a bottle. I took the bottle out from my mouth, thanked the waitress for her concern and then looked around the restaurant at all the eyes that were focused directly on me. The eyes were of all different sizes, some round others more triangular. They all seemed to be saying “how could a grown man suck on a bottle like that in a public place? You should be ashamed.” I understood their condemnation. It must of been unnerving for their eyes to see me, a grown man, sucking on a bottle. I nodded my head in acknowledgment of their contempt and then I stared at the empty beer bottle sitting on my table.

 

2.

Sucking on bottles has become a real problem in my life. Last week I was almost fired from my job as a bartender because I was sucking on a wine bottle while working behind a busy bar. I suck on bottles unconciously and I am usually the last person to find out tha there is a bottle in my mouth. Until the waitress pointed out to me that I was sucking on an empty beer bottle I was in a no man’s land of empty, spaced out thought. I was like an infant suckling on his mother’s nipple- blissed out, content and without a worry in the world.

When I was a year old I refused to give up my bottle. At an age where most of my peers were moving on from the bottle I still wanted to keep mine in my mouth. Whenever it was not there, I would let out a rattling cry disturbing enough to worry the neighbors. My parents kept the bottle in my mouth well beyond my sixth birthday simply because they could not find a better solution for my developmental flaw. They assumed incorrectly that eventually I would outgrow my bottle fixation in the same way that  outgrew my obsession with pulling my pants down in public.

I have seen various specialists and therapists for what came to be called my “regressive suckling attachment fixation.” In seventh grade I worked with a particular specialist who had my parents tape my mouth shut for three hours after dinner- every night for one month. If I took the tape off more than three times in one month I would not be given the reward that I was promised- a puppy. For three hours a night I would watch television or read with my mouth taped shut because my parents deeply believed that the specialist’s theory could solve my bottle fixation. His theory was that by spending three hours every night without a bottle in my mouth the attachment fixation would be broken. The bottle and I would get bored of each other and grow apart. The first few days after the end of the month the specialist’s theory worked. I was no longer interested in keeping a bottle in my mouth all the time. I remember one night watching television with my parents without the bottle in my mouth and my father said “thank goodness that shrink was right- my son is not going to be a cock sucker.” I believe it was the next day at lunch that I found an empty coke bottle and began sucking on it.

I am now almost forty years of age and I still have a bottle in my mouth most of the time. When I read, nap, go for a walk, watch television and meditate I enjoy a bottle in my mouth. My wife, who is agitated by my fixation, has tried to diffuse what she calls “my self-demeaning-negative-obsession” by forbidding me to suck on a bottle when I am in her presence. I try and respect her wishes but it is not easy. Often times when we are watching a movie or out to dinner my anxiety will act up and I will need to excuse myself and go into the bathroom and suck on a bottle for a few awhile.

 

3.

The waitress brought me my check and I paid with cash. She gave me a sympathetic smile that seemed to be reserved for those whom she pitied. I put on my jacket and looked once more around the restaurant. A few eyes still suspiciously fixated upon me. One older lady seemed to be deeply offended by what I had done and was indignantly shaking her head in disapproval of me. I felt the sting of paranoia as I wondered if it was safe for me to leave the restaurant alone. I stood up, took a deep breath and without caring if anyone saw what I was doing- I took the empty beer bottle off the table and stuck it under my coat. As I cautiously walked out the front door of the restaurant I could swear that I heard an older, raspy voice yell, “ain’t it time that your mama showed you how to get off the bottle!”

 

The Butt Of A Joke.

I was sitting in a Mexican food restaurant eating a burrito by myself last night. I was thinking about all the harm that my parents had caused me in my life and my thoughts were turning into a merry-go-round of self-pitying memories. I was sad and forlorn, so I decided to put punish myself by putting extra hot sauce on my burrito and eating as many jalapenos as I could. I watched the crowd of people who seemed much happier than I, all eating their food and caught up in the story of their lives. I felt like an outsider- like someone who had been disinherited.

As I made my way through my burrito (I was so caught up in my thoughts that I no longer tasted the burrito) an attractive teenage girl approached me. She could not have been a day over seventeen and her bleached blonde hair and black eye makeup told me that she was still stuck in that adolescent stage of trying to be someone who she was not ( a stage that I am yet to grow out of). She stood there besides my table, looking at me in the eyes, looming over me like a ghost that had come to deliver some fatal news. “Excuse me sir,” she said in a voice that did not yet seem to suffer the ravages of puberty. “You know you are a really really handsome man, in an older man kind of way.” I was taken aback, somewhat mystified by what was taking place. I did not smile or respond. “I really like the grey streaks in your hair,” she said smiling at me in a slightly seductive kind of way. As quickly as she appeared she walked away. My eyes followed her across the room where she joined three other giggling teenage girls who were watching the whole thing. Together they laughed while looking at me and then left the mexican food restaurant. Before the teenage girl entirely disappeared from my sight, she blew me a kiss and then gave me a wave goodbye.

I sat there with my burrito going limp in my hands. I looked around the room to see if anyone else had just seen what had taken place. The self-pitying thoughts that were spiraling around in my head were now gone. Now I was just trying to make sense of the interruption that had momentarily violated my privacy. “Handsome in an older man kind of way?” I thought. “What is that supposed to mean?” I tried to make sense of this by telling myself that it was probably a teenage prank. The kind of prank that I used to play on other people who had been subjected to the laws of aging. But now I was the butt of the joke and I was uncomfortable with how it felt. I slowly put my burrito down, took a deep breath and made my way out of the restaurant like someone who was trying not to be seen.

The Fly Trap

There has been an epidemic of flies around my house. What used to be my favorite thing to do, sit in my backyard and sun bathe while reading a book, is no longer something I am able to do peacefully. Flies flock to me as if I had some kind of magnetic appeal. They crawl around on my chest, my neck and a few have found their way into my various orifices. So last week I had enough. I bought a fly trap. As much as I try to abstain from killing any other species I figured the world could do with a few less flies. What was the big deal? I mean they don’t think and feel, right? I hung the fly trap up in my backyard, which looked like a plastic iv bag filled with brown-ish water. I used one of my shoe laces to hang it.

 

After a week of hanging in my backyard the fly trap became a fowl sewer of fly corpses. The smell was putrid and noxious, almost too much for the human nose to ingest. So today my wife made me take it down. Inside worm like insects were beginning to grow out from the more than twenty thousand fly corpses that were contained in the plastic bag (I know the number of flies in the bag only because the fly trap was filled to the rim with dead flies and on the front of the fly trap it says that it catches over 20,000 flies). I put on plastic gloves, wore a mask over my nose and used a scissors to cut the fly trap down. Once I had it in my hands I walked it over to the trash can. As I was walking I could not help but look at the massive amount of flies that were deceased inside. A few flies were still alive but soon they would be dead as well. I was reminded of the holocaust and as quickly as the association came into my mind- the fly trap disappeared into the trash can.

 

I took off my gloves and the mask. I put the scissors back in its rightful place and then went and sat in the wood chair in my backyard. I watched as a few flies landed on my arm and a few more hovered around some of my dogs excrement that I was yet to pick up (my wife has been giving me a hard time about not picking up the dog excrement on a daily basis, since I promised her that I would when we got the dog). As I was staring at the flies I wondered if I would be entered into the fly history books for all the flies that I was responsible for killing in my backyard? Would flies that are yet to be born one day view me in the same way that I view Hitler? A chill ran up my spine and I was suddenly aware of what I had done. What started out as a simple act may cause me to be known in the fly world as a genocidal maniac. I have always wanted to be remembered for my writings or doing something of value in my life- but now I may be remembered as a man who murdered thousands of flies in a fly trap! I took a deep breath and stopped my mind from entertaining this horrible thought. I got up, cleaned the dog poop and then went inside.

“Chicken!”

I enjoy walking through the suburban streets of my neighborhood in the fall. There is something comfortable yet foreboding about it. Halloween is weeks away and a long winter hangs in the background like a presence that is felt, but yet to be seen. I like to feel the cooling breeze swipe itself against my aging face as I walk. Leaves whisk past, fallen from the branches which once gave them life and I contemplate things like my mortality and the speed at which life seems to pass by. I look into the windows of other people’s homes and meditate upon all the ways that we humans try to create a feeling of security and permanence within the never-ending windmill of time. My walks tend to be more contemplative in the fall, more so than at any other time in the year. I think it has something to do with the end of summer and the beginning of a darker more introverted time of year. Sometimes in my contemplative state I sniff flowers and pay attention to things that I would normally ignore, such as a chicken.

The large chicken was grazing the front lawn of a nicely landscaped home. I looked around to see if anyone was keeping an eye on the chicken but there was no one around except a few elderly people hanging out on their front porch, far down the street. Since I live in an agricultural town, with farms all around- it is not unusual to see various kinds of livestock wandering aimlessly around. However this particular chicken took me by surprise. He (I do not know what the chicken’s sex was but for the sake of this story I will refer to him by the masculine gender) seemed to be larger, less fearful than most other chickens I had seen and he had this bright red mohawk running from the top of his head all the way down to the bottom of his spine. Since I stopped eating meat almost a year ago I felt like it would be possible for the chicken and I to get along. I had never met a chicken before and felt like this introspective fall day would be a perfect time to meet. I bent my legs and clasped my hands on my knees. I called the chicken in the same high-pitched voice that I use to talk with babies, cats and dogs. “Hello there chicken, what is your name?” I kindly inquired. The chicken lifted its regal head, turned its beak towards me and stared directly into my eyes. He had finely sculpted cheekbones, large all knowing eyes and a beak that looked like the helm of a pirate ship. Without wasting a moment’s time, the chicken began to walk right towards me. I did not expect this kind of unflinching courage from a chicken and I felt a bit intimidated by its forthrightness. So I withdrew my invitation to meet and quickly turned around and walked away. I had never touched or been close to a chicken before and the limited space between us created a mystery that I suddenly became too afraid to explore.

The chicken backed off as well and went back to grazing on the front lawn. As I was walking away, I could not help but feel like I missed an opportunity to meet a chicken. I also felt like I was acting like a coward and allowing fear to get in the way. I remembered something I heard from a Buddhist teacher about smiling at fear rather than running from it. So I turned around and walked back over to the chicken who seemed to be preoccupied with pulling green grass out of the ground. I was within five feet of the chicken when I bent my legs, put my hand on my knees, smiled and said in my high-pitched baby voice, “You’re a good chicken. What are you doing out here all by yourself? What is your name? My name is Randall.” I proceeded to call the chicken over to me in the same way that I would call a cat. I was determined to pet a chicken without fear getting in the way. Again the chicken lifted its head, looked at me straight in the eyes and then he opened his mouth allowing a large handful of grass to fall out. Without giving me a second to understand what was taking place, the chicken pointed the helm of its beak straight at me and began to charge. I felt a wave of fear overcome me- to powerful to ignore. My smile went away and immediately my fight or flight instinct over powered me. I ran.

As I was running I realized that that the chicken was chasing me. I could hear a demonic cackling sound coming from its throat. I do not know what the cackle meant but it sounded like very primal fighting words to me. I could hear the chickens winged feet slapping against the sidewalk as it started to catch up with me (I had no idea that chickens could run so fast). I remember thinking to myself “no, no, no, I am not ready to die!” as the chicken got closer and closer to me. My horror and desire to live allowed for me to run at a speed that I no longer knew I was capable of. I ran for two very long blocks at top speed until the chickens horrifying cackling began to gradually fade into the background. I gradually slowed down and turned my head. I noticed that the chicken was walking back the other way. He had given up. I stopped, put my hands on my knees and tried to catch my breath. I felt like I had just escaped what could have been the end of me. Beads of sweat began to drizzle off of my forehead and make a drip like painting on the sidewalk. I looked again at the chicken whose red mohawk was sticking straight up as he walked back towards the lawn. I then looked across the street, where I could hear two elderly people laughing. They were sitting on their front porch and enjoying what had become a show for them in which I was the main actor. The old lady who sounded like she had no teeth yelled out at me, “chicken!” and then made a kind of inhumane cackling sound. All I could do was mumble under my breath “okay, whatever,” shake my head in recognition of being the one who was being laughed at and walk away.

The following afternoon I went for another walk. I was observing the piles of leaves on the ground and listening to the various sounds that the leaves made as they tumbled down the street in the afternoon breeze. I decided to stay away from the street where I was chased by the chicken. I felt slightly embarrassed to show my face on that street. I was also afraid of the chicken. So I walked in the opposite direction. I observed various flowers and contemplated various episodes of my youth that I had not thought about in years. I recalled the time that I was attacked by two white poodles while on my way home from school and how I had run away from them in tears with my ankles bleeding and pant legs all torn up by the poodles teeth. Maybe I ran from the chicken because I was traumatized by this episode in my youth? I then thought about all the ways that our past experiences affect our behavior in the present. And then as I was walking and thinking, I noticed a large piece of paper stapled to a telephone pole. In large, bold, black letters it read: MISSING CHICKEN! Below this was a picture of a large chicken with a red mohawk. It was the same chicken that had chased me the day before. Beneath the picture was written: HIS NAME IS MILO, IF YOU SEE HIM PLEASE CALL 916-748-1175. HE IS A VERY SWEET CHICKEN BUT HE CAN ALSO BE AGRESSIVE AT TIMES. REWARD.