(This post is dedicated to Elizabeth Marro, a great writer and blogging friend who had the patience to deal with me long enough to put together an excellent interview. Sorry I’m so late in posting this, Betsy.)
A bottle cap is an afterthought. A dimpled nothing used to keep fluid from spilling, the barely closed door to glass jail cell, a temporary seal that exists only to be pried up, removed, and thrown away.
Thrown away and rarely remembered, forever torn from its bottle and worldly purpose.
I always imagine that every bottle and cap is a monogamous pair, and once the two have been parted, its unlikely they’ll ever meet again. They are a young, summer romance where the boy lives in Philadelphia and the girl lives in Seattle; they’ll have their fun and walk the beaches of innocent puppy love, knowing full well their time is short and destined to end.
I keep a unique bottle cap from every different beer I drink. I’m not sure why, or what I plan to do with them, other than occasionally admire the rainbow of shiny metal that slowly grows bigger as I add to the freezer bag in my basement. To me they are beautiful reminders of my experiences. Self-contained works that are just as much a part of the beer as the label and the glass. Some artist, at some point, in some place, put some thought and some of herself into that 1.02 inches and 21 crowned teeth of rounded real-estate.
A few weeks ago while I was running, I saw a green glint on the side of my path and stopped. I found a tiny little screw-top cap, scuffed and abused but still clearly wearing its Smirnoff uniform proudly. Based on the color and size, I assumed it was from a 50ml “mini” of either Smirnoff Green Apple or Lime vodka. I felt bad just tossing it back into the overgrowth, partly because nature can’t do much with an old aluminum cap, and partly because it seemed lonely out there by itself. Recycling it seemed the fairest thing to do for all involved; a snail wouldn’t mistake it for a mate, it could be with a million of its friends at the recycling plant, and I’d feel like I helped the universe in some tiny way.
Before I got back to exorcising the beer from the night before, I wandered into the unkempt mess of the tiny strip of woodlands next to my office, looking for any other caps that had been abandoned, left to a leafy, muddy fate. I found several half buried bottles, labels long washed off by Maryland rain, filled halfway with dirt like they had gone feral in their few years away from humans. I also found several old Duracells, an empty bag of Doritos (Cool Ranch!), and a spare “donut” tire.
Just as I was about to give up, I spotted another cap playing chameleon with the ruddy dirt. This one was rusted to the point of tetanus worries, but I picked it up and pocketed it all the same. It said, boldly, “Corona Light”, which, for anyone who knows beer and Corona, seems like a brewing impossibility.
Then I spotted another catching some of retreating sun in its silver crown, regally demanding I come pick it up it. This one was more decorated than the other two, with white laurels circling the italicized M, G, D. It wasn’t quite as deteriorated as the Corona cap, and a thin black title – “Miller Brewing” – ran the circumference like dog tags; identification should the beer ever be lost in combat.
I tossed these three around in my hand, this motley crew of mainstream brew, wondering how they got here. Had a sad cubicle monkey forced down some vodka to make it through his work day? Had a few kids up to no good chugged whatever cheap beer they could lift from their uncle’s barbecue the weekend before? Had they been opened miles away and migrated in cars or pockets or trash bags, only to find their nearly-final graves here in the rarely-visited brush outside a boring corporate park?
So I rescued them. I know there are millions more out there, braving the elements all by themselves, slowly returning to the earth as carbon and iron and polyethylene. But at least these three can return to the great circle of brew-life, hopefully one day gracing the top of a new shiny bottle, standing tall and proud, if only for one glorious, ephemeral moment.