The glinting black of smooth ceramic reminds me of bright koi skins darting under darkened waters. The reflection of light from the hallways, bouncing off the keys left swinging in the doorknob, make the coffee mug stand out even in the shade of your unlit office. My eyes are drawn to the handle, shaped like a handgun, and I smile. It makes sense that a person like you would have a coffee mug shaped like weaponry, stealthily pulling the trigger on artificial energy; morning sales calls; webinars. A man of intrigue, cultured and confident, in the confines of a CRV. Yeah, it makes sense to me.
I savor the silence in here when I sneak in, and I wonder again if you keep the espresso machine locked up in here just to give me a reason to come in. I know that’s a little self-important of me but it’s a nice thought, the kind that warms me a bit. I entertain the idea that you are actively manipulating me on a psychological level and that I am in the hands of your plans every time I grab the keys off of the wall hook and grant myself entrance to your stronghold. Your office used to be storage but now it is very much a stronghold, still storage for the expensive construction equipment you peddle but now also a place of comfort. You have made it yours. I wait as the machine heats up water and grinds beans, and appreciate the fact that you are the type to make an office yours. I enjoy the knowledge that you chose the red serving trays that are carefully arranged on the table, and I enjoy the image of your hands neatly placing the accoutrements for the perfect cup of coffee into each compartment. Splenda, sugar, spoons and cream. Organic local coffee beans.
I enjoy your office the most because of the unexpected details. You are a brash salesperson, loud and in charge, boasting about weekend golf scores and chiding weaker players; you carry Coach bags and talk about James Bond in a tone of voice reserved for the revered and beatified. Yet the sandwiches you make me, deli mustard and sweet pickles toasted with salami on pumpernickel, tell a different story. The portrait on the wall of an Egyptian queen, decked in royal blues and golds, hangs proudly – painted by your mother. The gilt-edged stamp in a language I dimly recognize – the capitalized ‘Magyar’ affirming my hypothesis – brought back from travels abroad. You are everything I would normally mock and dismiss and I assumed instantly that we would never have any common ground when you first moved into my building... but there are parts of your story that are told for you, the parts that flesh out a character. The parts that make you a real person that I could have a conversation with. A ticket stub to Carmina Burana at the Seattle Symphony. The hand drawn caduceus that your wife painted when she graduated medical school. The tea cup, your grandmother’s, that you actually drink your coffee from.
I brought in a coffee mug of my own to rival yours after you ridiculed me one day for drinking from Styrofoam cups.
“It tastes better when there’s history involved,” you said matter of factly, holding your saucer in one hand and tiny steaming tea cup in the other. “Be a grownup and bring a mug.”
If I were the type to believe in symbols I would raise my eyebrows at the framed stamp.
If I were the type to believe in coincidence, I would take my Hungarian grandmother’s wildflower-painted stoneware mug and walk back to my office.
If I were the type to believe nothing and entertain all I would carefully swing the door closed and slowly back down the hallway, balancing my mug with an equal ponderous grace, sitting at my desk with a peaceful bewilderment.