Guest Post: Lying in Wait by James Milenkovic

James Milenkovic is a 23-year-old writer, poet and artist from Melbourne. He has a Bachelor degree in Arts (Professional Writing and Publishing) and is currently studying Education (P-12). James’s work is inspired by the intersections between light and dark, living and dying, material and destruction. 

Lying In Wait

At the end of a serpentine hallway in my house is a room. It’s not unique or distinct from any room in the house: a 4 ½ by 4 metre, cream box, with threadbare carpet, a walk-in wardrobe and a smeared window looking out into a backyard of dying rhododendrons. It is, however, disparate from every other room in the house, toilet excluded, as its door is always kept closed. Behind it, the space acts as a storage shed for stacked and labelled boxes containing goods for my new home. While they lie in wait, as they have done for many months, I have been left feeling that I am, in some way, forsaking them, as though they need me – not unlike how young ones depend on a guardian.

While my logical mind deduces that these objects are inanimate, manufactured and ephemeral, my unconscious mind refuses to surrender to the notion they are soulless. Below the intellect that has so often governed the decisions and actions in my life, is the whispering voice of insentience. I must disagree with Dionne Warwick when she coos: ‘a chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there.’ I perceive objects as sponges. Propagators of passed time and memories. Thoreau mused, ‘why do precisely these objects which we behold make a world?’ What an extraordinary thought. I see paraphernalia possessing the ability to retain the energy, emotions, textures and flavours we have implanted unto them, through osmotic and psychometric processes.

Objects ground us in time and place. They make connections, pose questions, and answer them. Take a wedding dress kept in a closet. The bride has worn the gown on one of the most important days in her life. It saw the exchanging of vows, the tears during the ceremony, the laughs at the reception. It is imbued with love, promise and hope. Conversely, if the marriage deteriorates, it could remind her of what an arsehole he was, and thank fuck he’s gone.

In her book, Evocative Objects, Sherry Turkle explains that we ‘find it familiar to consider objects as useful or aesthetic, as necessities or vain indulgences. We are on less familiar ground when we consider objects as companions to our emotional lives or as provocations to thought.’ This outlook is in a similar vein to the philosophical adage: if a tree falls down in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?

Whether or not the process is witnessed, the consequence of seeing a toppled tree is irrefutable. Process and consequence are part and parcel. To deny one but not the other is disingenuous, just as I feel denying those boxes in my spare room is disingenuous. I feel sadness thinking that these meaningful treasures I have collected have become superfluous while not in use. These objects, once conduits for pleasure, are now reduced to elegiac mementos, devoid of colour and life. And the gesture of shutting the door behind me when I leave the room is much like adding insult to injury.

I wonder if we truly own something when we buy it. Can we be obstinate enough to say that currency equates to ownership? Who’s to say that, between owner and object, there is not a process of getting acquainted. We have to write their narrative, just as they write ours. I imagine that a rapport is required through which vibrations are exchanged.

Could there be some form of co-dependent or symbiotic relationship at play between objects and ourselves? We need them for a reason, as equally as they need us. We need a light bulb for light; the light bulb needs us to click the switch so that it can work. We need a dining table as a surface upon which we eat our meals. Likewise, the table requires us to place our plates down so that it too is useful. To be without purpose is to be in a state of inertia. Maybe I hold the sympathetic view I do for my stowed objects because I understand what it is to be in a period of stagnancy. I spent many years waiting and hoping for direction to crystallise, all the while feeling tantamount to nothing, like I was in a tunnel – as far in as I was out. I had no career trajectory, no semblance of a social life. My life was dictated by my past as a friendless recluse, bullied and ostracised. And because I could never live up to the prodigious goals I had set for myself, I subsequently locked myself away, much like I’ve done those boxes.

What heartens me is the knowledge that in due time, however soon that may be, these trinkets will be released from their cardboard confines and breathe the air of freedom again. What’s more, they will be peppered throughout my home with pride. And as I re-familiarise myself with each of them, the stories they hold will be told to me. My eyes will glint with pride when I pass by them. My face will be coloured with the satisfaction of seeing that like me, they’ve found their place. And the door of my new home’s spare room will, henceforward, be kept open.