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Extremes on the Subject of Objects
“Nothing is but what it is,” he said in response.
“That hat,” he pointed at the hat, “is just a fucking hat. It serves a purpose, shelters you from the sun and the wind, screens the light, provides a brim and all that. That’s it. Those shelves are all they are - for the putting in of and taking out of whatever you want to keep there. That’s it, that’s it. The carpet, the ceiling, the knives, the forks - they are what they are for the role that they play. There is nothing more to it than that.”
She could believe what she was hearing. They had spoken in this way before. But there was some aching gap in her mind - like the residue of or precursor to a migraine - that could simply not process that this was his view of the nature of things. It rendered her a little stunned - blinking in light that was too harsh and too bright for the day. Any desire to respond slid quickly away like a garden snake and she sat silent and ponderous.
For the roles that objects played were of little interest to her - secondary or even tertiary to what they meant and what they carried. The hat, embroidered as it was, spoke of itself and the times she had worn it. There was also a possibility, slender in her mind but still accepted, that she had grouped this hat with all others she had owned. When she looked at it, she was reminded not only all moments wearing this particular hat, but of all moments wearing any hat she had ever owned. Then, it was a wonder she had the strength to lift it up and put it on her head, for it was so dense and weighty with association that it must have been a terrible burden.
The shelf too was heaving with memory and attachment, more important than the books and other paraphernalia that populated its physical space. Each chip and dent at the base were linked to some historical bump or scrape. She would look with kindness at a tooth mark - surely, in her mind, inflicted by one of the children at a young age. The beaten and weathered back of the shelf had borne them from one stage of life to another. Perhaps, no, in fact - she was quite sure - it had intertwined itself with them like the roots of a tree from which it had come. There could be no distance or decoupling from this shelf - she would just as rather have put the children up for auction or down to the basement.
The carpet was new so it had not yet quite absorbed the full soak of family life. But there was the taste and the promise that it would - surrounded as it was by all its cousin brother objects, looking on eagerly and welcoming it into their midst. Theirs was not an exclusive club where you had to prove your worth - once you were present, you were part, and made to feel supreme at home. The shelf, the chairs, the table all examined the carpet keenly, barely able to suppress their joy at a new one with which to share the mantle.
The ceiling looked down proudly - imbued with the years it had hovered over all. She had not spent a good deal of time examining or even thinking about it, but still it was something more than what it was - containing and sheltering them, as it did. The forks and knives were reliable soldiers too, bent and burnt and sturdy in place.
This was how she saw them all - attentive and old, blemished and unkempt.
She was not quite sure how long she had been absent for. At moments like this, she appeared to an observer to be somehow separate from the world around her - in the space, but not quite there, like some artificial flash of colour in a black and white photograph. He had paused to occupy himself with a practical task - to move something somewhere, put something else in place. These actions were deliberate and designed to achieve a particular goal. Once done, there was no need for him to wipe his hands or clap his hands in satisfaction or even survey the work - for he was already on to the next task.
It’s possible that this was intended as a question or a prompt. But it did not seem to be somehow. He had taken her silence as a statement rather than an exploration of the burrows and recesses of the space. He huffed and straightened, grasping at the thread she had unwound around the room, attempting to respool the yarn and tidy it away into a box in the corner cupboard. The onus was on her according to convention, she knew, to say something, to respond somehow to what he had said. But she still did not feel any sort of inclination to do so, for to interact with something she was so opposite to would have been absurd. It would have been like debating whether the sky was green or the sea was shallow - an utter and impractical nonsense that she would not abide. She knew that the knives were proud, and that the bookcase was loyal. This was simple clarity. Indeed, to give his opinion another moment of thought or provide it with airspace was not something she was prepared to indulge.
“I think you’re wrong,” she said, proud and trembling, as she cast her eyes around the magic of the room.
Her gaze was intended to draw his attention to what and how she saw - the huddled mass of objects so loving and adored, clustered around them in perpetual embrace. But it did not have the effect she sought, as he refused to pursue her down her tunnel of imaginings. He snorted, made to speak, and then did not.
Unreconciled, the day continued for them both.
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