There are about twenty coffee mugs in my mama’s cupboard. My sister and I are both here to visit for the week, so there are four coffee-drinking adults in this house.
Some of the mugs are matchy matchy; they are of no use to me. When my family drinks coffee from a mug from a matching set, they lose track of whose-coffee-is-whose the minute their fingers leave the handle. “Is this mine?” Sometimes we remember, we can recover knowledge of possession, the coffee physically in front of me is probably mine. However, most of the time, we put down our coffee down and then walk all over the house, erasing that crucial chain of possession from the three bits of RAM we have in our melon heads.
So as I said, the matchy mugs from the set are of no use to me. When I’m returning 20 clean mugs to my mama’s cupboard, I shove all the matchy mugs to the dark, back corner, and bring all the singleton mugs to the front. I want my family to drink out of singleton mugs, so they will remember; oh, my mug is the union local mug, your mug is the souvenir mug with a bull in silhouette and “España” written across the top… Unique singleton mugs, in my mind, erase the problem of matchy mug confusion, due to their unique uniqueness of uniquity.
Every morning, I make a pot of coffee and serve it in a thermos pitcher, and I set out four singleton mugs, precisely calculated to serve each of the four coffee-drinking adults in the family, so that we all use precisely one mug, one mug for each person. I arrange the thermos and the four mugs onto the breakfast table as a centerpiece; the thermos towers over the four mugs like a mother duck with four ducklings. I imagine my parents and sister would see the breakfast table, realize that the coffee is served, and sit down at the breakfast table and stay out of my damn way as I’m making breakfast for everyone. That is what I imagine.
Actually, what happens in actuality is quite different, actually. When they come into the kitchen area for breakfast, they stop in the kitchen area and reach into the cupboard for a mug. It doesn’t matter how far back I bury the matchy mugs behind rows of singletons; they reach into the cupboard and half a second later there is a matchy mug in their hand as if the cupboard was filled exclusively with matchy mugs. Then they say something like, “oh, did you forget to make coffee?” and then stand in the center of the kitchen and look for the thermos.
Folks, every day, I make coffee, I serve it in a thermos at the breakfast table, along with four mugs. So by the time I put hot garlic fried rice, fried eggs, and diced tomatoes on the table, there are three matching mugs on the table, filled with coffee, plus the four empty singletons that I served. A total of seven mugs on the table. Sometimes, eight.
After breakfast, I clear the dishes from the breakfast table and take them to the dishwasher. There are several plates to watch, some utensils, and somehow there are four dozen dirty coffee mugs to wash. Mama only owns 20 mugs, but there are 48 mugs filling the dishwasher. Once the dishwasher is filled, coffee mugs and water glasses (a similar phenomenon) start appearing from other parts of the house. So now there are 48 mugs in the dishwasher and 24 more mugs that have come home to roost, making a grand total of 300,000 that I have to deal with after one breakfast service. The vast majority are hard working and law abiding, and the crime rate among the mugs is actually lower than that of the general population. Most are documented with the government, many are not. Needless to say, the dishwasher is overwhelmed.
When everything is washed and dried, all twenty mugs go back into the cupboard. I try to bury the matchy mugs in the back, knowing that my family has the magical ability to summon them forward, making them and millions of other coffee mugs appear on the breakfast table, numbering like the stars in the heavens.