Andy & Me

11.2.09

I only have fond memories of our third grade field trip to the anger bottling plant. It was presented to our parents as an opportunity to build our character, to prepare us for an increasingly uncaring world, but for those of us who knew better, it was just another attempt to appease Angry Andy.

Andy was a small kid, shorter than the rest of us, and wore a flat, round face beneath his delicate bowl-cut. His eyebrows slanted at an angle, converging just above his nose, giving him a look of constant contempt. But his anger was not purely cosmetic: when Susan asked to borrow his eraser, he punched her in the face, then demanded to know where her family was so that he could finish the job. And when Daniel asked what job, we could all see the regret in his eyes, realizing that those would be his last words.

The highlight of the field trip came at the end, when we were each given a bottle, and were told to put inside it our most undesirable thoughts. If anyone irritated you, just quietly bunch up that anger, and squeeze it through the opening. Tighten the cap, and resume whatever you were doing.

Andy was never the same again. When Susan once again forgot to bring her eraser and had to ask Andy, this time in a squeak of a voice, she did not receive another punch. Instead, Andy turned around, fiddled with his bottle, and then turned back, his eraser in hand. Susan reached for it carefully, hypnotized by the unexpected beauty of the moment, as most people are after a near death experience.

The school year continued without a hitch, and ended before long. Andy left the school to attend a better one, then moved on to become a successful entrepreneur. This is not, however, a happy story. The last I heard of him was in the local newspaper: he had beat his girlfriend, then jumped out of his high rise window, a broken bottle lying beside him. It seemed that in an alcohol-induced daze, he had reached for the wrong bottle, and in opening it, unleashed years of pent-up anger. Not cool.

But I do not mention this because I want to make you sad. I mention it so that you can understand my fear of opening my own bottle, which stood in front of me on my table, after years of being hidden away in an unmarked box. I no longer remembered the contents, but I knew I had to face them sooner or later, and would much prefer to do it while I was sober.

I carefully twisted the cap, set it on the table, and waited with my hands over my mouth. I told my girlfriend to leave the room, and she did.

It started like a balloon, a rubbery blob slowly expanding at the bottle opening. Too big to fit through the hole, it turned and shook as it freed itself, until finally it pushed its way out with a pop, then stood beside its former abode. If I had to describe how it looked, the closest would be perhaps an oversized jelly bean.

“HI!” it said.

I could see that it was gaining texture. And hair. A face began to form, and tiny limbs shot out. I wondered if in the moments before Andy killed himself, he too was greeted by what appeared to be a miniature monkey.

“HEY I SAID HI!” It raised its tiny arm.

“Um, hi? Are you, uh, my anger?”

“NO I AM MONKEY! HEY WATCH ME JUGGLE!”

I was about to ask it to stop, but by then it had already gotten to five balls, and to be honest, was quite impressive. When it stopped, I felt the urge to applaud.

“Hey, are you going to make me beat my girlfriend and make me jump out the window?” I said, “Because that’s not cool.”

It thought for a moment, its little hand on its chin. Finally, it held up a finger and declared, “I LIKE PAPAYA!”

This was quite unexpected. It stood there, staring at me, and I stared back, not knowing what I was supposed to do. Then oh, right. I ran to my fridge, and pulled out some leftover papaya, and handed a small piece to my rather peaceful anger. It devoured it, papaya juice spilling onto its lips.

“MORE!”

I pushed the whole piece towards it, and it finished with a satisfied grin, rubbing its little belly.

“HEY WANT TO GO TO KOALA LAND?”

Slowly, I began to understand. I was never really an angry kid, so did not have the anger to bottle up, but in wanting to better fit in with friends, I have had to put aside my most random thoughts. And as I aged and had to be more mature, the more I had to put these away, lest people found me weird.

“THEY HAVE HUGGABLE KOALAS.”

It reached out to hold my hand.

“LOOK AT MY WINGS!”

Then, yes, wings grew from its back.

“WE FLY TO KOALA LAND OKAY?”

I realized then that my problem was not unlike Andy’s: in order to fit in, we had to hide who we were. Perhaps not so much for me now, but there will come a time when I can no longer afford to have these thoughts. Successful people in their mid-life do not think about koala amusement parks.

“I don’t know,” I said. Already I worry about the effects this will have on my career and my life. Perhaps it was indeed time to stop it all, and just grow up. Be mature.

Finally, I sighed.

“Yes,” I said. “Let’s go.”

Because fucking hell, they have huggable koalas.


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