It’s kind of like there’s this box with grandma’s mug in it and every once in a while you look inside at what it is now and what it isn’t. And it all comes rushing back to you and you look at the pieces of it knowing it will never be whole again, never be real the way it once was.
The mug had a special place on a special shelf in the kitchen by the sink. You had taken it down one day and held it, thinking of what it meant and all that it represented. It slipped from your hand and fell to the floor, breaking into a dozen or so pieces. As it moved away from your hand toward the ground, you grasped and swiped, hoping to catch it, even hooking the handle of it briefly with a fingertip only to lose it again until at the end of what seemed to be a forever of trying it impacted the tile floor with a pinging sound as it shattered just out of your reach. You picked up all the pieces that you could find, all the pieces that were big enough to stick to your fingertip that might have been dust and might have been mug and put them into the box for safekeeping. There was always the hope that one day it could be put back together, not like it had just been superglued back together but real and whole like it once had been. There was always the hope that someone could go back in time, to that moment where it slipped from your hand and make that moment never have happened. But as the days wore on the box got moved from the table by the door, to the kitchen table, to the corner of the kitchen counter, into a low cupboard and at last deep in the back of the high cupboard in the corner. Each step toward its eventual place less of a reminder of that moment when it slipped away from you.
She always had that mug next to her bony hand with the soft wrinkled greyish skin and the thick blue veins underneath showing plainly through that she would run through your hair or touch your face with. And always with that look in her eye like she knew and understood exactly what it was because she always did and she always could make it better just by running her hand through your hair or touching your face. There was that summer you went to stay with her for a week. You’d wake up in the morning and she’d be there at the table next to the window with sunlight streaming across her face and hair in rays through the particles of dust suspended in the air. She’d take a sip from the mug and tell you “you missed another beautiful sunrise, dear” as she got up to make you pancakes and bacon. And on the last day you stayed with her, she made you sit and watch the sunset with her even though you wanted to chase the last of the lightning bugs in the chill fall air and she said “I suppose you’re old enough now” and handed you the mug and that was the night you found out that it wasn’t always coffee she had in it. And as the rays of sunlight faded across both of your faces you got drunk for the very first time with her and it would always be a secret only the two of you shared as the sky blazed with fiery orange fingers and faint shades of bluish purple and finally the horizon lost it’s pink silhouette as you felt her breathing next to you. And every time you went to see her, you’d get a sniff of the mug and she would always wink and it was usually coffee or sometimes soda and you both smiled to each other.
But now grandma was gone and you always wondered if things would be different somehow if you’d just gotten there in time or did something differently, like when you’d stumble across the box with the mug in it in the back of the cupboard and relive the moment all over again where it slipped away from you. When she first fell ill, you went to see her and she gave you that look like it would be alright, because she knew it would be as she put the mug onto the side table and you didn’t try to sniff what was in it this time. Or any of the other times you went to see her as her own sun set and you promised to be there with her as the last pink silhouette faded into darkness. But you didn’t make it. Something always happened and you just couldn’t catch a break, it slipped away from you just outside of your grasp. You tried to be there but each try was another futile grab at the air just behind the mug; a traffic jam, a train delayed, just barely missing the flight. She was gone just moments before and now you stared at what she once had been and it was irrevocably different now and no one and nothing could ever make it better all better this time. And you took the mug from the side table and drank down what was in it in one swallow because it didn’t matter anymore what was in it, you only knew that some of it was in her before and the rest was in you now. And you slipped the mug in with your things and took it home. You gave it a place of honor, at least in your heart, up on that shelf. You did the best you could to keep her alive through the memory of her and her mug. And you always wondered why it happened that way and how if you had done something differently, just one thing differently, things would have ended up differently but at least you had the mug.
Yeah, it’s kind of like that only it’s not a mug and there was never any liquor in it and it’s not your grandma who isn’t dead. But the boxes are everywhere and the pieces are all inside of every box, even the dust that isn’t the mug, and everywhere you turn there’s another box and you already know what’s inside of each of them and you never know when one of those boxes is going to open.