Cook it. Eat it.
Clean it out and peel the label off and take it to your Cub Scout troop meeting. Take a hammer and nail and hammer holes into the sides until you’ve made the shape of something festive for Christmas. Or you can write fart or boobs. Then stick a tea candle in the bottom and paint the walls with holiday cheer or profanity. Compare your lantern to those of your Cub Scout friends, the friends you won’t talk to again after high school.
You can catch fireflies in it. You’ll have to cover the top so that they won’t escape, but then their light won’t get out.
Take several cans and line them up on a sawhorse and walk three hundred yards across a field under the summer sun to where you left your dad’s rifle. Do this early in the afternoon when there’s no chance he’ll come home from work. Lie on your belly in the grass. Feel the butt of the gun firm against your shoulder. Breathe slowly, quiet; listen to the insects whirring near your ears. Hold your breath while you squeeze the trigger. The report will be loud. Don’t be startled. Watch through the scope as the can flips into the dirt. Feel powerful.
Gather a bunch for a high school club and donate them to the homeless shelter.
You can paint a picture of it and call it art. It’s been done before.
You can mix some half-and-half and some seasonings and vegetables and diced-up chicken into a few cans of tomato soup and say it’s a centuries-old family recipe for tomato bisque. Serve it to your girlfriend while you sit naked on the couch together. She’ll be impressed. She’ll become your wife.
Make an ugly flower pot out of it and give it to her as an anniversary present.
Feed it to your kids when the rain’s trickling down the windows and your wife is working and you are feeling very lazy. And you are out of peanut butter and jelly.
You can eat it yourself when your wife tells you you’re not worth cooking for.
Hold it in your hand at the supermarket and marvel at its simplicity. It is metal; everything else is plastic and fluorescent and space-aged and extreme, but the can of Campbell’s soup looks exactly the same as the one that your grandfather bought during the Depression. Back when he scrounged for pennies by selling coal that bounced out of the train, back when he bought the soup from a man who is now dead.
You can fill it with things. Marbles. Seashells. Water that’s dripped from the soggy spot in the roof of the living room, the spot you never got around to fixing.
The can can hold all that. Hold it in your hand and look at the shelf. So many choices. Chicken noodle that smells like the flu. Vegetable beef that pops and sizzles over a campfire. Tomato that you can’t bring yourself to buy anymore.
Take a can off the shelf. The can has heft. Fill it with yourself. You can fit the things in it that you can’t fit anywhere else, the loss and the jealousy and the rage. If you want it bad enough, it can hold your children, wherever they are, and your parents, if they were alive, and the friends and the parties and everything else that you had before you started coming home to an empty apartment and eating Campbell’s soup for dinner every night. Toss the can a couple times in your hand like a pitcher biding his time at the mound. Wind up and chuck it as hard as you can down the aisle and leave a Bean-with-Bacon-shaped dent in the side of that woman’s head, the woman that looks kind of like your ex-wife. People will see you. They’ll come after you. That’s okay. You have an entire shelf of red and white ammo. You can knock them down, knock them down, bring them all down around you while you laugh and throw and throw. Feel powerful again.
You can hook two cans together with a piece of string and try to have a conversation with someone who isn’t very far away. Go ahead and put the can right up to your ear. All you’ll hear is metal and string.