There Steel was, surly at the sink, looking tangled up in itself, its own problems and thoughts. Shy, Grapes might never have stopped, but the space was narrow there, and as Grapes moved to brush past it, Steel reached out and roughly scratched Grapes' smooth flesh.
"Ouch!" Grapes said, stopping reproachfully. "Whaddya do that for?"
Steel shrugged, its curls glistening in the sunlight filtering in through the window, and Grapes couldn't help but be impressed. As Grapes started to move away, Steel came in close, and in a scratchy voice, introduced itself: "I'm Steel. Let's blow this pop stand." Steel led the way to a darkened corner of the cabinet under the sink. They talked, Steel talked mostly, as Grapes sat in shock and wonder at this being it had just met. Eventually there were kisses, Steel's rough and rasping, Grapes' hesitant. Steel pulled away first, and Grapes watched in dismay as Steel disappeared into the gloom.
That's how it all started, the falling into intimacy like falling off of a bike: a sudden, easy shock out of your routine, and now you are on the ground instead of cutting through space, confused, and a little bit scared. A whole new state of things. They talked every night, snuck away from their posts on the dining room table and kitchen sink and hid together in that cabinet, making out to the scent of rotting eggshells and orange peels.
Together, they went to parties on kitchen counters, hanging out with potholders and saltshakers, spatulas and eggbeaters. Grapes always hated these parties, but Steel loved them. Grapes sat shyly in a corner, trying to will its unease away, and wondering how it was possible that no one else felt this way. Balanced between shame and judgment, Grapes was rendered immobile, embarrassed that it had nothing to say to anyone and annoyed that everyone continued to talk about such alienating things. Steel left every party feeling either self-righteous or furious, depending on whether or not it had fought with someone there and whether or not it had won. Afterwards, Steel would regale Grapes with tales of triumph or indignation, and Grapes listened indulgently, loving Steel's passion while at the same time finding it absolutely alien.
From the very beginning their respective roles were clear. Steel was brave, tough and secretive; Grapes was gentle, innocent, and always one step behind. Steel would launch into long angry monologues about the system, its job, society, following twisting paths of logic that seemed to push away from the center of things rather than work their way into the heart of the matter. Grapes would answer non-committally, a murmur of reassurance. Once, worked up and irritated, Steel yelled at Grapes, "What is it with you? Why doesn't anything bother you? Everything just slides right off of you!" Steel meant it as a criticism, but Grapes knew it was true, and Grapes liked it that way.
There is something so shimmery about first love, all that promise, all that uncertainty. The open sky and the sight of Steel across a room evoked the same feelings of wonder in Grapes.
Grapes wrote poetry, and dreamed, and never told Steel about any of it. It was mostly Grapes' willingness to love and be loved that allowed this relationship to continue when the two of them were so sorely mismatched. This willingness did not actually mean that they were good for each other, but it provided a wellspring of emotion that their depleted resources could always draw on. No matter what problems emerged, the important thing was that they wanted to be together, and they both knew it. And Steel, who had always been scared of hurting someone, found Grapes' imperturbability supremely comforting. Deep inside, Steel believed that anyone it loved would end up totally wrecked and ruined, that no one would be able to stand up to its abrasive criticisms. Grapes made Steel feel safe and guiltless. At the same time, Steel felt neglected and rejected, cheated of the passionate scenes that were its due.
Steel was kind of complicated that way.
They worked slow tendrils of affection into each other's hearts, both of them clutching tight, like ivy on a brick wall. When they split up it would hurt both of them viscerally, some part of themselves being ripped away. Months later Grapes would still find shreds of silver in unexpected crevasses.
Steel introduced Grapes to the wonderful world of hallucinogens. Drugs are funny, because anyone can do them. Secretly, Grapes thought doing drugs made you kind of cool. No one cool would ever admit this of course; they would just say, like Steel, "What the fuck? It's fun." But Grapes wasn't cool like that. Before Grapes met Steel, Grapes hadn't even really had that many friends. Grapes was cool because it listened to obscure music and watched tons of art flicks and said small clever things quietly, when no one was listening. And Grapes was cute. So Steel had picked Grapes up. Steel treasured the idea that it was too complex for most of the objects it knew, and Steel loved the feeling of having discovered Grapes, picked out someone that most objects wouldn't have necessarily noticed. Alone, together, hidden away from everyone and everything, they would take acid, ecstasy, mushrooms. They rolled around under the sofa, laughing about nothing. Grapes would return to its place on the kitchen table with unidentifiable scratches, covered in dust, and finally there was something to talk about at parties. The world was scarier, and more vibrant, and less real to Grapes. And Steel was scarier, more vibrant and less real to Grapes.
Once, tripping and inside Steel, Grapes looked at Steel's body contorted beneath it and saw the object Steel would become: worn out and worn down, all its shininess gone and all its carefully hidden secrets, its tightly wound core, exposed and used up. Grapes felt haunted by the idea that this would never happen to itself, that it wasn't something inevitable about aging but rather something specific about the way Steel interacted with the world.
held Steel tighter, and never mentioned what it had seen.