[The auction for this object, with story by Christine Hill, has ended. Original price: $1.49. Final price: $126.39. Significant Objects will donate proceeds from this auction to Girls Write Now.]
Collecting is in my family. I got the bug early, but never got the value part correct. I keep frivolous collections of worthless objects — inventoried, catalogued, color-coded, feather-dusted and meticulously cared for.
M comes home extolling the virtues of this bottle made of wood he paid actual money for in town and then we argue about incorporating it into our living environment. He gets suckered by these pitchmen all the time, but I can’t talk because I have turned the entire back porch into a reliquary for soaking off labels from jars that I am planning to use later for a special experiment.
At first, we use the bottle as a decanter for a variety of liquids that can go in the refrigerator. M hates packaging, and everything in the fridge is devoid of branding so as not to offend his delicate visual sensibilities. After a few weeks of wood-flavored juice, wood-flavored iced tea, and wood-flavored salad dressing, I make a strong case for the bottle as decorative element rather than functional object. M concurs and the bottle moves into the living room.
The bottle is sometimes joined by a growing collection of items that only come out when mother is visiting. She believes we have an altar in her honor on the sideboard right next to M’s instruments. These objects otherwise live in the broom closet next to the vacuum and the Tupperware tub full of coins in case of emergency.
On Sunday when we are feeling lighthearted, M is waving the bottle around in dramatic poses, playing judge and jury, and then orchestra conductor. When it is my turn to act out, I thunk him over the head with it playfully and he says, in his German accent, “Aua, that actually hurts.”
I come home one evening late after we’ve had a disagreement and the bottle is next to our bed, playing the role of a bud vase, sporting one little pink blossom. M is contrite and I worry that the cat will knock it over and cause my copy of Maintaining Your Polyamorous Union to get soaked.
M thinks the bottle is gone, when actually I have hidden it and told him that it was starting to smell funny. I put it corked in the trunk he calls my hope chest, but which I know is my escape hatch. It is buried in there with abandoned trousseau linens I find in thrift stores, the embarrassing journals from my teenage years with their tiny locks and keys, and the wisdom teeth I had extracted all at once in an unwise move. I feed the bottle with the names of men I have loved, written on small scraps of paper, like fortunes in reverse. There is a code for how they found me, what they smelled like, and how they inevitably wronged me. Excised from the collection, they are added to another. I draft M’s slip of paper in my head and dream of a red felt-tipped marker.