Grapes escaped out of that tiny world where everyone frowned upon it for being too superficial, not grounded enough, the only one who refused to be sensible or to make itself useful, and arrived in the big city. It was easy for Grapes to find its tribe, other misfits from across the country, finally at home where their witty repartee and sleek looks would be appreciated. Grapes had its running mates: a bright blue vinyl change purse, a charm bracelet resplendent with a rhinestone Eiffel tower and a gold-plated Arc de Triomphe, a thick resin paperweight with a real rose preserved in its perfect center. Together, they roamed the city, danced if they thought the dj was cool enough, sneered and chatted if the objects were worth watching, even if the music wasn't up to snuff, and bounced, in disdain, if they deemed the club unworthy of their presence. The change purse, in particular, had a way of gliding out that seemed to contain all the scorn in the world, just by the twitch of its zipper.
They challenged each other to greater and greater heights of style-lifestyle--that is, life as style. The paperweight, who could have easily graced the desk of the editor of Vogue with its otherworldly beauty, occupied a spot in the cubicle of a phone sex girl for the sheer ironic bliss of it all, and told them about showing a Piglet Happy Meal toy the full glory of its glistening dome. The charm bracelet had a predilection for acquiring kitschy trinkets from Fourteenth Street dollar stores and Fifth Avenue department stores and adding them to its collection. It currently sported both a day-glo plastic Jesus from Dollar Days and a sterling silver lipstick from Tiffany's. They were creating a language of their own, a style all their own, in which only they got the joke, and even then, part of the game was to never admit that there was a joke happening at all.
Consequently, it was no real surprise when Grapes brought the Potholder around to meet everyone. At a new club, where glittery garlands of Christmas tinsel danced slinkily across the ceiling, Grapes showed up, a tendril wrapped tenderly around the Potholder, and introduced it to everyone. The Potholder was a good fifteen years older than Grapes, and had clearly never been a beauty even in its youth. The years had not been kind. The Potholder looked...the Potholder looked...the Potholder looked like precisely the kind of object that they had all spent their whole lives trying to get away from. The change purse unconsciously straightened up, smoothing out its wrinkles before it realized that the Potholder reminded it of all those disapproving handkerchiefs back home and slouched back down, defiantly. Grapes fawned all over the Potholder, refreshing its drinks before the Potholder had to ask, wrapping itself around the Potholder and leaning in to catch its every word. The others were trying understand the duration and intensity of this new move: was this going to be a one night stand or would they be forced to listen for months to stories of all the great casseroles the Potholder had helped serve up over the years? Surveying their dismay, Grapes had a feeling of deep satisfaction.
Grapes loved the attention. Walking the fine line between laughing at and laughing with, Grapes understood that the Potholder was a real object in its own right, and at the same time appreciated the shock value the Potholder had at parties and with Grapes' friends. Many things about the Potholder delighted Grapes-the way it wrapped itself totally around Grapes as they slept, its lack of self-consciousness about its rips and stains and burns, its eagerness to accept Grapes' affections, its guileless way of pushing into the kitchen to help the caterers at a party.
Grapes stopped wondering if it liked the Potholder in an ironic way or for real. Grapes knew it ought to fall in love with the Potholder, or otherwise, throw it over cruelly (leave the Potholder for a hot young designer can opener, perhaps) but in the end Grapes could not manage to do either of these things.
The Potholder never acknowledged the physical inequity in their relationship, the way it must look to the world. It always acted as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world that they were together, and when Grapes asked what the Potholder thought of its friends the Potholder would just say, "Oh, they seem nice," or "That change purse is a real sweetheart." Grapes realized, to its surprise, that style, which was the most important thing in the world to Grapes and all its friends, didn't matter at all to the Potholder-in fact; the Potholder honestly never really noticed style at all. This made the Potholder seem brave and unique, not just novel but instead possessing a secret understanding of the universe. Grapes started spending more time with the Potholder, wanting to access this secret, sure that it would make life better.
Grapes asked the Potholder about its life, and was charmed by how ultra mundane its upbringing had been. Still, no deeper insight into the Potholder's character delivered itself up. The Potholder was one of those lucky objects who had somehow managed to create inside of itself an inviolate core that no one and nothing could touch. It was basically content, unquestioning of the world, and it left the weltschmertz to those too foolish to leave well enough alone.
All of Grapes' attempts
to solve the mystery reached dead ends, and brought them no closer. They
had a good time together, and that was as far as it went.