This is how the arrangement began, two battles: one of ease; one tactic. The fluidity between objects seemed unquestionable, even negotiable, until at night the kitchen cabinets would conspire against the vitamins; the vitamins would crouch in fear, doe-eyed.
They’d never find a home. One day they were in the basket, the next day sitting next to it, replaced by a hammock of bananas and oat bread. How were they supposed to know where they belonged? What right had they to maintain clout, let alone settle in a basket? Times were tough, and it took months before they settled on top of the fridge, unmoved unless popped open and swallowed, Vitamin A-Zinc for breakfast.
Finally, they knew their role.
Things were different in the entryway. The tapestry hung like a post-colonial British jacket, just so and ethnic enough to be cleansing: it claimed the entire region and was rumored to be Armenian. The coat rack had its doubts.
The Turkish icon in the dining hall was a gatekeeper, placed above an archway or door for protection. But it was strategically plotted without symbolism, hung on the wall to the left of the bookcase, alone, eye level, just an object. Its military assignment bent to fail. No one had the heart to tell it how awkward it looked, beady, helpless in the storm. Little did it know it had an army to back it. If only it could communicate freely, the little blue icon would find friends of variant sizes just outside the entry door, pinching pennies in a Mediterranean market.
Sadly, it never got the chance.
The candles in the bathroom were a whole other continent. Burned, rotated, moved, lit, spent, dropped, replaced, declined, forlorn, small flames of translucent orange and blue waning in the dimmed light of a drawn bath. They were comfort to no one, let alone themselves, pensive in every step beyond the door, a brisk movement swept them out.
Toilet paper became a backup plan, a gage of what wasn’t being done. Rolled, replaced, rolled, replaced, cardboard skeleton set on the back of the toilet, interrupting dialogue between hand lotion and exfoliant. “What the fuck are they doing here?” would be discussed by a waft of lavender. Sometimes it took weeks before the rolls found themselves moved to recycling, uncertain of the future, always treated as trash.
This is not to say these items were forgotten, more neglected. A pineapple could sit on the counter for more than a week before slaughter, squared and angled, thick skin like an armadillo’s shell, the frightened glisten of a blade. These were the afternoons, unforgivable, transitions objects never asked for, or prepared to face.
Picture frames drew such animosity on the walls, straight lined, trimmed with a modern frailty, a contemporary compliance. Nothing was to be guild. Shawls draped on reading chairs in the parlor scolded for being comfortable, for daring to intrude on the solitude of scarcity. After all, these were minimalist times, no matter how antique the furniture.
The radiators screeched all winter, pitying their immobility, suffocated the rooms with their stubbornness, their diligence – the only entities with history, omniscient as narrators come. They told nothing of their stories, but railed and banged when left quiet, the chill of frozen pangs unbearable.
They had no say in anything.
1950’s bulbs kept watch over the bedroom, held their shields with dignity and elegance, swore allegiance to the eastern wall. When the war broke out in the kitchen, they kept their post. Nothing would knock down their barrier, crush their spirit. They protected the shimmer of canvas, the ruby dress of a nightingale. Held strong against the bitterest of seasons, tasted the sweet caress of moisture and song. The light made love to the navy, silk blue of summer, flirtation of wind, dance of petals from the flesh of an orchid in the heart of a vulva, the heated pulse of a flower.
The day the rains came the spices were unruly. Packed and organized in baked goods and savory. They spilled themselves all over the counter and begged for mercy. Cabinet doors flew open and slammed shut, demanding attention, a tantrum fit for kings. The L’s were the worst. No one had anticipated their cunning, never mind their existence. Even the saffron had trouble keeping up with their tactics, a passive herb frailer than a vanilla bean.
The L’s had been quiet, laying in wait for a year, a human emblem possessing a species, claiming what vigilant anthropomorphists had been fighting to free for years – the angles of personality and perception, each object it’s own vision.
When the tensions erupted between the cinnamon, the sticks acted as bystanders – they wanted nothing to do with being ground. Still, the fury amounted when the pink container full of fresh cinnamon screamed it was for breast cancer, putting the room at a standstill.
“What did she say?” whispered the rosemary.
Everyone in the room was in disbelief. Even the mirrors had trouble reflecting what had just occurred. That’s when it happened. The pink strip label on the jar raising awareness for breast cancer pulled up its skirt and bared its undergarments, its curved bottom exposed to the air and there, in the middle of its base was scrawled a tiny symbol in permanent marker, scarred and claimed forever.
The shape was that of the aforementioned L, or flipped upside down, the western unit 7. When more of the spices began to expose themselves in a similar fashion, bare ass in the early morning, surrendering their tails as a pitiful last ditch effort of defense, the unmarked objects knew they had won. The war was over, and at last the hostages were able to secede to calmer the regions of generosity. The bolted door breezed open, and for the first time in a year, repression lifted and materialism ended.
None of the objects in any adjacent room knew quite what the horrible symbol stood for, or why it attacked the cinnamon first, then spread to the baking powder, basil, nutmeg, tarragon, lemon pepper, and oregano. The vitamins on the fridge counted their blessings the disgruntled cabinets had been such disagreeable hosts, lest they be marred by the tracking symbol themselves, “Thank Goodness!” they cried.
There was little talk of the human branding incident for years, till finally, when it was safe to tell the story as lore, variants of the tale traveled through pipes of old homes, scaring containers of discontented powders, keeping peace between apartment buildings as warning. No object ever thought it would happen to them, but then, there might be a reason radiators in aged buildings squeal louder than they used to, fearing the rivals of forced air so alarmingly, unable to keep their secrets much longer, wary of their own extinction, bracing corners, waiting.