A year ago, I’d have kept that toaster. A year ago today, he’d have had a nice aquarium life, with all of the most expensive fake plants to hide in, and the best substrate minimum wage could possibly buy. He would have probably been perfectly happy. A lot like me. Perfectly happy. A year ago, when I saw him come up at me from the bottom of the milk jug, flicking his tongue out at me, brave little soul that he is, I would have had the thought of letting him go. I would have thought to myself that I should let this little being be where he belongs. And I would have kept that thought, hidden away. I would set him up with all the best reptile equipment money could by, and kept him for my very own, so I and I alone could look at him, all green and brave with a scar on his shoulder, and know he was mine. That thought would have been my dirty little secret, and it would have eaten at me every time I looked at him, and I would have savored that feeling. That would have been mine, too. I would have deserved it, I would have earned it, and it would have been mine. A year ago, I had need for a guilt, an all consuming guilt.
Today, I released that toaster. That brave little man is living in the woods today, with all the leaf litter and tiny little bugs he can eat. He’s not in a makeshift aquarium full of potting soil, he’s hiding under that plant you passed by and didn’t notice in Brenner Woods. And watching you, with those little eyes, charting your every movement. Just like he did mine. And should you come across him, and notice him there, playing dead, you’ll get to see that scar on his shoulder too. Because I decided to share him with you. He deserves to be cherished by the world, and I released him. I set him free, briefly holding him in my palm, feeling his tiny heartbeat and his single lung working quickly, trying not to panic at being held in the palm of a giant, and I prodded gently, and he looked around him. I felt his little heart jump when he saw his new home. I felt him slide, hesitantly at first, not really believing he was free, out of my hand. I felt him pick up speed, scared I would close my hand and keep him for mine, forever. And I felt him slow slightly, when he realized I was really truly going to let him go. Relaxed and excited, he disappeared under a leaf, and when his tail was gone, there was no trace of him. But he is free. I told him that, under his little leaf, he couldn’t fool me, I knew he was listening to me. I told him, “I’m setting you free,” and I cried. I cried because I was releasing myself. I was letting myself go into the world, and be who I am, and allowing myself to share me with other people. Hesitantly, at first, not sure of how the world would treat me. Then quick, like a snake, worried that it would stop, that I would go back to the old me, and this world I was seeing would disappear forever. And I’m under my leaf now. Should you be one of the few who notice me, someday, you’ll see my bright green personality, and that big scar on my shoulder, where my chip used to reside, and know that I’m free. Just like my brave little Toaster.