“This thing is ruining my life.” That was the first text I sent after discovering that tiny rubber baby. Seriously, though,… look at it. It’s as profound as it is creepy, and I can’t escape it.
It may not be surprising that TRB (“Tiny Rubber Baby”) and I met in a bar. It’s true that it doesn’t appear to be an adult, and it carries no ID, but it is indicative of the type of thing that happens to me when I drink.
The story, as I remember it, goes like this: I was a handful of fingers into a bottle of scotch when the bartender approached me and laid TRB beside my glass. “I think you two were meant to be together,” she said matter-of-factly. She later admitted that she had no idea how right she’d turn out to be.
She told me that someone had found him balanced on the doorknob leading to the bar’s kitchen, but that no one had any idea how he’d gotten there. I was immediately enthralled. What manner of person takes a tiny rubber baby into a bar? The answer, as it would later turn out, is me; I’m the type of person.
“Bob over there is running from a warrant; Tammy is off to find a fresh start in a new city; Aaron is vacationing with a tiny rubber baby.”
Like me, TRB looks like he’s been around awhile. Although I can’t say that I haven’t contributed to that, he did look like he’d already been through a lot when I first met him. He’s apparently had an eventful existence, which is one of the many things about him that bothers me to the point of obsession. He doesn’t talk about it, though. TRB leaves the past in the past.
There’s also some kind of black dot on his head. What is that? Is it hair? Is it some sort of religious marking? There’s no way to know for sure.
You’d think the fact that he appears to be resting very peacefully would be comforting, but, I assure you, it is not. It only adds to how unsettling this little guy is.
I suppose a normal person may have had a simple chuckle and have moved on with their life. Not me, though. I took him home. And then I took him everywhere else.
I took him to work. I took him to the store. I took him back to the bar. It wasn’t long before everyone in my small town knew I was the 40-year old man carrying around the tiny rubber baby. Many would ask me periodically how he was doing. People created tiny accommodations for him and cheered his various activities.
He traveled across states with me, and I’m pretty sure he thinks that buses are an underused form of interstate transportation. I sat him on the window sill (pictured below) so he’d have a nice view. We must have been quite the sight to our fellow passengers as we traveled overnight across the northern Midwest. Bob over there is running from a warrant; Tammy is off to find a fresh start in a new city; Aaron is vacationing with a tiny rubber baby.
I brought very little with me when I left rural Ohio to move to Green Bay, Wisconsin, but I was sure to bring TRB. We’ve adopted a different lifestyle here, putting our drinking days behind us. We prefer a warm breeze on a porch now to the neon glow and jukebox music that surround a bar stool.
I don’t know what the future holds for TRB and I. He’s less present in my life since I’m spending less time drinking, and maybe that’s why. I suppose that I needed a little guidance, a little voice, a little reminder at that time, and who better to provide that than a disturbingly inexplicable rubber baby. Maybe he really did ruin the life I had then, but he’s replaced it with a happier, healthier one. I mean, if you consider a grown adult man carrying around a tiny rubber baby to be “healthy”, that is.