Two bottles


I don’t know why I photographed these two bottles together, but it occurred to me that they may serve to elucidate the two distinct meanings that enter my mind when I see the words “expiry date.”

This Visine bottle has followed me for years across oceans and addresses. And though the stuff is basically water and salt, I was taken aback by the fact that it has an expiry date. What could possibly happen to saline? Does it get saltier? Less salty? It bugs me that Johnson & Johnson thinks it’s OK to tell me when to purchase a new bottle. But, not wanting to lose or damage my vision, I blindly followed their printed advice. I’m sure my new bottle has already expired too.

The second bottle was only with me a short while. My friend Richard gave me a betta fish as a birthday present. I think he was also giving me a subtle lesson on commitment, but he’d probably deny that. We brainstormed names while watching the Emmys which is how he got the moniker “Michael C. Hall”—which we immediately changed to Dexter. 

I treated Dexter’s water carefully, fed him the finest in betta pellets, and sometimes wrapped a scarf around his fishbowl when it got too cold in my room. In spite of my best efforts to make life comfortable for my first pet, he became sick. He stopped eating his food, and the edges of his fins frayed. The pet store suggested I plop these weird tablets into his bowl and so I did. They turned the water blue and Dexter seemed to be getting better.

Then one day I found him lying on the bottom of the bowl, his mouth wide open and his little body throbbing to stay alive. That was his expiry date. I threw out the bottle of water conditioner, and I did not rush out to replace Dexter.