chapter four: my cup

A cup. Honestly, it is very ordinary. Glass. Ten ounces, maybe. It feels good in my hand. It has weight. Sturdy. 

I find it chipped one morning. I open the cupboard and reach for it as always, for a glass of water. A glint of light scatters the wrong direction as I place it on the counter and only then I see the edge damaged so slightly. I look around but can't find the shard. I use it still, avoiding that side of the rim where it will cut my lip if I am not careful, but I am very careful. I can be careful with it from now on.

I step on the piece later. The piece from my cup that was broken and missing. It is small, translucent. It should be harmless, but it startles me as it digs in my heel. I grab my foot and lift it to watch a drop of blood run and fall. Just one drop. A single spot on the tile. I wipe it away but rust color stains the grout in one, tiny place. I feel embarrassed and stupid for loving this broken cup. For keeping a chipped cup when I have lots of cups, at least two dozen other cups in the cupboard. This one is my favorite.

Another day I wash the cup I still use out of habit or persistence. I want to tell you that I place it carefully in the sink. It's important to me that you know I am careful and that I keep my word. Tiny suds slide down the edges as I rinse off other dishes. I run the cup under the flow of water and as the bubbles wash away, I see a crack. A hairline fissure from midway to the chip, like a stream of refracted light opening up to the sea. I hold the cup very close to my face as if this investigation will solve a crime. "I was very careful." My testimony does not change the cup's condition. I hold the cup under the faucet until full and place it on the counter. A tiny pool gathers around the base and my cup does not hold water. I empty it all into the sink and wipe it gently with a cloth. I put it on the windowsill before me and watch the sunlight illuminate the injury. It lives here now, the cup, on the sill. I use it for a flower or two I cut from the garden, half an inch of water in the bottom under the crack. It's still good for that.

I come home to find the cup on the counter, fallen from its post due to a shudder of thunder from a storm, maybe. Or a knock at the window? It was not me, I am more cautious than that. The cup is split in three. The heavy disc of the base and two semi-circles. Two crescent moons rocking back and forth with jagged edges. I collect my cup and deliver it to the coffee table on a kitchen towel. I flip on the light and rummage through the junk drawer for the crusty tube of superglue I know I have and have had since the first day I had drawers. I don't remember if it's always been the same one, but there is always one there whether I buy two or lose four. It doesn't matter, one persists. I pry the end of a safety pin down the clogged nozzle until a rush of sticky liquid bubbles at the tip. I carry it to the cup and clumsily squeeze glue over every newly cracked edge. I press three pieces together to recreate the whole, the seams ooze liquid. New permanent drips harden down the side. It needs to dry and I stretch a rubber band around the circumference to hold my cup for an hour or two. When I return the cup is solid once again, but the rubber band is fixed as well. A new addition to the life of the cup that must persist, I guess, since it's stuck and holding everything together. I return it to the windowsill but it won't keep any water so it lives on to hold my vegetable peeler. I never kept my vegetable peeler on the windowsill before and suppose it is not important to do so, but the cup can handle it and I want the cup to serve a purpose. It was and still is my favorite cup.

I knock the cup over when I reach for the peeler. I pull it too quickly and the very end catches the rim of the cup and sends it crashing to the floor. I jump backward and survey a thousand tiny shards of glass. I think I see them all and when I kneel down closer I find more. Under the refrigerator. One has traveled to the living room - I spy it only when I rest my temple to the ground and view the whole room on a horizontal. I pick up several pieces and collect them in my palm. One pokes me a bit and there is blood. I drop the pieces in a pile and press a paper towel into my hand. I get a broom and sweep all the pieces together, but I step on several I could not and would not see and I leave half-footprints of blood in a trail map that leads to where I'm standing now.

This is a mess. This isn't worth one bit of the trouble. I have two dozen other cups. I could have thrown the cup away when it was chipped. I definitely should have thrown it away when it split in three. Now it is completely beyond repair and it's in more pieces than I can count and they're all cutting me or somewhere hidden, waiting to cut me. I am exhausted with this. I'm talking to myself.

I leave the blood and the glass exactly where it is and go to bed. I wake up the next morning and head straight out the door and order coffee at the shop around the corner and have lunch delivered to the office. I meet friends out for drinks after work and decide to eat bar food somewhere, I don't remember, late. I spend the night at a friend's house. I dress for work with the dry cleaning I had in my backseat. I order coffee again. I skip breakfast.

I come home a few days later and avoid the kitchen on my way upstairs. I order delivery on my phone. I watch a show on my laptop in bed.

No matter how long I wait, the cup is still on my kitchen floor in pieces. It doesn't disappear or clean itself. I know that won't happen, but still. 

Maybe a week passes? It could be almost two. I walk downstairs in the middle of the night and sleepily head to the cupboard to get a glass of water. I step on a shard. This glass is still here. All of it is still broken and lying on my floor. I rest my head on the countertop, my arms drape over cookbooks and a stack of unopened mail. "This could go on forever," I tell myself.

I flip on the light and find the dustpan under the sink. I sweep, then wet a rag and run it over the tile to catch any pieces too small to see in the dark with bleary eyes. I spray cleaner on my bloody footprints and scrub them away. I toss it all in the garbage and it's done. I take five steps away from the kitchen and turn around - I realize it could be even more done. I knot up the top of the trash bag, slide on my clogs and walk the bag to my bin on the street. As I walk back inside and lock the door behind me, it is actually done. 

"What a completely unnecessary pain in the ass," I scold myself as I lie in bed. I have dreams that night about the cup even though I'm just immeasurably sick of the cup and want to drink only from disposable paper cups for the rest of my life. I dream the cup is in my cupboard, chipless and ordinary. One cup, unremarkable amongst two dozen others. It blends in and it isn't my favorite. It's just a cup and I don't notice if it is different from the rest or have a preference toward it. It doesn't break and I wouldn't care if it did. 

That isn't what happened, but that's what I dream about.