I always carry around a water bottle, and I drink from it frequently. It’s both a nervous habit and a way to neutralize other nervous habits. If I didn’t have the bottle I’d no doubt fidget with small nearby objects, pull out my hair by running my hands through it every few seconds, and stroke my beard relentlessly until the fingers bled raw and red. The bottle somehow prevents me from tapping my feet as well.
I’m not the only person who knows of the water bottle secret. I see people everywhere clutching ragged Nalgenes and overused spring water bottles shaped to look obscurely feminine and archaic. At work, on the streets, and in the parks:
Heavy, heavy water users.
But I’m different. I’m an extreme case. I don’t just carry around your average sixteen to thirty-two ouncer. I travel with the full on water cooler bottle. The one that weighs like, I don’t know, forty pounds or so. The one that office workers apparently stand around and talk on and on about celebrities and other gossipy bullshit things.
They’re delivered to my apartment, seven of them, every Monday. I line them up on the back porch and strap on a new one each morning. I even devised a special canvas harness that wraps three times around a standard water cooler bottle before merging with the thick wool straps that sling over my shoulders like a backpack. And the best thing: There’s a simple straw device that guides the water right to my mouth without having to use my hands.
I go through one whole bottle from dusk to sunset and pee about fifteen to twenty times daily.
I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the only person who has a setup like this. I used to think it was a normal thing, it was the way that everybody got their water, but the more I think about it the more I realize that I’ve never seen anybody else carrying a water cooler bottle on their back.
Whenever I sit I undo the bottle from it’s harness and put it on my lap. That’s how I handle my fidgety habits. I just hold the bottle in a light hug. My hands magically rest when all of my nervous instincts are telling me to tap it, stroke it, thump it, and shake it. I just sit back, suck on my straw device, and feel peaceful.
I tend to sit in the park a lot and watch people play with their dogs and frisbees and each other. Just myself with a water cooler bottle on my lap. It tends to get pretty warm as the day goes on, but I actually like my water warm. It doesn’t hurt the teeth I have left.
Come to think of it, I haven’t been to work in a long time. When was the last time? Last week? Last year? I seem to have money around, though, so that’s good. I only have to pay the bottle delivery man and the guy at the pizza shop next to the park. But I don’t actually seem to be visiting him too much lately.
I guess I’m a little confused. Where do I work? I pull in a swig of warm water and watch the revelers. My grip on the giant bottle tightens a little, so I drink some more. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to piss soon.
My name is Marty Culligan. I think. I’m thirty-six years old. I think. I work as a html programmer. I think. I wrote a couple of books too. I think. I’m not married, but not a virgin either. I think. No, I’m sure I’m not a virgin. Her name was Virginia. I think.I live in an apartment just down the street from the park. I think.I think I am living on this bench right now, writing. The water bottle sits next to me like a friend. I need to stop writing on the back of the yellow napkin, hold the bottle, and hug it, because I feel like I am going to explode inside at any moment.+++
Well, I’m here right now, and the situation seems dire. The sun has disappeared behind the nearby trees and more distant highrises. The people are all packing up and leaving the park. It’s just me on this bench and a couple of old stragglers wandering around by the fountain, looking for things they can’t find.
And I can’t find myself, suddenly. It’s like reality has hit and I’m finally faced with the indisputable truth: I have no fucking clue who I am. It’s like the past is a heavy rain on the windshield and my wipers don’t work. And I’m hugging a giant water cooler bottle and sucking on it from this black rubber straw.
OK, the water’s gone now. What do I do? I have to piss.
Play: “Moonlight Sonata”
So I left the bottle and found a tree in the dark, but not too far from the bench illuminated by tall yellow light. I pissed forever. It hurt by the end.
When I returned, the water bottle was gone. The sounds of children and a deep plastic drumming were fading away. I thought momentarily about chasing them, but knew that I was no match. Why would I chase after a disposable item like that anyways?
I found myself alone in the park, too anxious to sit. I began to walk around, my hands running through my hair and beard continuously.
-Sir, what are you looking for? If I may ask?
–Mah wawa bow ull
–wawa bowull! (drinking gesture)-Are you ok, sir? Do you need food?-(collapsing into miserable pouting upon the park lawn)+++
I am walking. I am alone.
It’s been weeks since I woke up in the park nuzzling that mysterious water bottle. The water bottle that I only got to know once. The one with the rubber straw and soft fleecy straps.
I know it will turn up. I only need to keep asking people. Even when they seem annoyed, I must keep asking them. Even when I know they can’t understand me (my rotted teeth), I must try to communicate with them.
There is nothing else I can do. It’s all I know. For real.