For as long as he could remember, he was able to put his emotions into a bottle, and store them on a shelf for years to come. They neve...

The Man Who Bottled Up His Emotions

   For as long as he could remember, he was able to put his emotions into a bottle, and store them on a shelf for years to come. They never went off, their effect never faded, they just sat there waiting to be revisited when he most needed them. The fact that no one else he’d ever met had the same ability didn’t bother him – in fact, when he’d just taken a sip of Satisfied Itch and his face glowed with a happy, smug relief like no other, it seemed that they were more bothered than he could ever be. He’d even had doctors study his brain, his bottles, his habits, and find nothing that brought them closer to understanding the phenomenon.

   So from a young age, he began bottling everything up. He was a hoarder, just like his dad, so before long, he had every feeling from Watching The Sunset to Being Pushed Against Car Seat By G-Force bottled, labelled, and placed on his shelf. By the time he moved into his own house, he had enough bottles to fill two rooms. In the garage were his negative emotions, and in the cellar (the much larger of the two rooms) his positive ones.

   It only took a drop to touch his lips, and the feelings in those bottles would engulf him. He’d be back in that moment, even just for a second. If anyone else tried, they’d feel nothing; and that was just the way he liked it.

   The jars and bottles and glasses he kept his feelings in were of all shapes and sizes. He tried his best to keep more of the positive ones and less of the negative, so in most cases his happier moods were in bigger bottles. Treading In Dog Waste was an exception, because a wine bottle was all he’d had to hand when it had happened; but on the whole, feelings like Soul-Crushing Disappointment and Unexpected Bump On The Head were in vials as small as urine samples, and those like Pleasantly Surprising Exam Result and Waking Up On Saturday Morning in huge jugs that would never run dry. When he was feeling down, he’d sip from Finding A Tenner In Your Pocket or Winning At Kiss Chase. When he had an insatiable desire for drink, he’d taste a little Completely Quenched Thirst. If he felt tired but he really needed a few more hours open-eye, he’d quaff Full Of Beans like there was no tomorrow.

   He didn’t know if he’d ever need Sick After Overeating At Kid’s Party or Anger At Self For Missing Train By One Minute, but he thought it was best to keep them, even if it was just a couple of shot glasses full.

   He had all these feelings he could call upon at will, bottled up in his basement, but he would give them all up if it meant having an endless supply of his favourite. His tip-top elixir of joy was kept in a beer keg, the biggest container he could find the day he’d felt it, and he revisited it more than any other emotion. It was called Receiving That Note, and it was all of the elation, the excitement, the unmitigated glee that had rushed through his veins when he’d been passed a note from that girl in class – now his wife – which read, 

I like you too. x

   He’d rushed home that day after school, his heart still racing, his cheeks still red, and he’d raided his father’s garage, throwing things this way and that, looking for an empty container big enough to hold this swelling happiness. He poured it all in, he stuck a cork in the hole, and he vowed to look after it like no other feeling he’d bottled. This was one which he never wanted to run out.

   And ever since, all through those years of marriage, he had been sipping from that keg in all the hardest times. The raging arguments, the absences where the heart had refused to grow fonder, all the times she lied or he forgot or they disconnected, he’d sneak off and drink from the keg, and suddenly he’d be back there in that classroom, thrilled that a girl so perfect had a crush on him. It was just the reminder he needed, just the refresher to bring everything into perspective. All that bickering, all those issues that shouldn’t have been issues at all, it all paled into insignificance when he was flooded with that joy. He could leave the basement instantly happy, grab hold of that perfect woman, kiss her, and tell her he loved her and that he was sorry and that nothing else mattered, and everything would be just the way it should be all over again.

   He was addicted to that feeling. He was a junky to that keg. He was sure that it was the reason that they had the world’s strongest marriage.

   So imagine his horror when, the morning after a particularly heated row, waking after his wife had already departed for work, he waded through First Orgasm Of The Morning and Receiving Too Much Change to get to his keg, and he found it to be empty. His heart fell through his stomach, and plopped on the floor. After bottling the feeling and labelling it Depression Over Missing Feeling, he panicked. What would he do when she came home? Would their argument never end now? Would they end up old and resentful, divorced and devastated? This was uncharted territory. None of his emotions compared to that one, none of them could quench his thirst like that one. There just wasn’t a bottle down here that would fix everything the way that one did. He was doomed. He felt like crying, and the only way he could stop himself was by taking a sip of All Cried Out.

   He paced the floor. He scratched his chin. He tore his hair out, and he growled at the ceiling. He feared so deeply that his marriage would be over now, that he didn’t have the power to make things right, that she would hate him forever more for no longer being able to deliver the affection she needed, just when she needed it. He was doomed, and he was just beginning to resign himself to that fact when the telephone rang.

   ‘Hello?’ he said, the sullenness in his voice thick like custard.

   ‘I love you, honey,’ his wife’s voice replied, and in that instant he learned that the power was never in that keg at all. Just like all those doctors had told him, those bottles really were empty. They contained nothing but dribble and dust, because the power really resided in his heart. It was him all along, and he realised this as that feeling of Receiving That Note came flooding back into his heart, so intense that his eyes watered and his voice quivered.

   ‘I love you too.’

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