When a bottle is empty it is still fully a bottle, whole in its form and function. That it no longer has contents is irrelevant, though we take it as an insult. That bottle’s empty, we say, often discarding it on our way to something else. We have conflated the bottle’s emptiness with some flaw in it, when in fact it is whole, sovereign, even, in now being pure vessel.
This bottle of shampoo was one of the first things I bought to fill my new place. I didn’t have salt, pepper, hand soap or tissues–none of those foundational elements that help us cover over that we are wretched, secreting animals like all the others. I had never been in Dollar Tree and figured there was no harm. There was none at all in a quart of shampoo for a buck. When I saw it, my old reptile brain purred. Mm. Good. Will last long. I brought the full bottle home to the new house in early October. I used it up on Thursday. Reptiles have been around a lot longer than us and can sense these things.
Since October the bottle has sat in the corner of the shower, nothing unwanted growing on it, the label not sliding off. The shampoo has done its job as shampoo and as a clock, winding down the long thin hours of new occupancy, all the strange echoes and long nights, the covers that felt they belonged to someone else. The long echoes in snowy streets, the streetlight drizzle on smothered leaves, the bus rumbling around the closed bridge; the improv class, performance to a full, invisible house, dates with women I don’t remember and who don’t remember me, late Wednesdays like cheating on middle school, a dandelion motorcycle battery that works; Christmas with one string of lights, Thanksgiving with the held clench I’d forgotten to anticipate, quiet evenings with the cat and something on the radio. Among the constants has been this shampoo.
I’m not sentimental: I don’t miss it, regret using it, wish there was more. I ran water in the bottle and got every bit out, because I’ve always done this, as far back as when I had toys in the tub. I knew the end was coming and got another bottle, one just like it, from the same dollar store. It has been a thing that has started with me, giving me a first stage push before separating and falling away. We should mark such graduation and release.