(Dedicated to my dearest friend, Owen. It’s only fitting I should start at the beginning, eh?)
If minds could be designed as a place or an environment, what would they look like? Quiet as a church with stained glass windows for memories. A raucous rave where thoughts are be songs and moods are lights. Or perhaps it’s as sterile as a hospital and twice as dangerous.
7 billion possibilities with nary a one the same.
This is a story about when teacups met a tempest.
In his life, everything had to be just so. He liked order and being in control. He liked to be the one with the answers, but he didn’t like to brag about it. He was humble. He also liked tea. Draw his blood and it would come out green. His mind reflected this practice by being arranged in rows and rows of tea cups grouped by color and design. Acceptable and pleasing to behold; although there were secrets hidden within. Tea with an unusual flavor way over to the left, out of sight and out of mind. A cup dotted with tiny pepperonis that, when looked at from a distance, might look like flowers. There were even empty cups, ready and waiting to be filled but you would never know them from looking head on. He was one that people turned to for answers. His well-ordered tea cups gave him confidence and systematic logic.
He is a quietly humble and quirky man, brimming with the flavors of knowledge and curiosity.
In the distance, in a completely different environment, there was a low growl. A different sort of sound than the tea cups were used to. They clinked and clanked against their saucers and then settled, content in their structured design. They were sure that nothing could disturb them. He was sure he was right where he wanted to be and did not look the least bit interested in the growl.
It was the clinking that got her attention. She liked the noise. It caught her and attracted her, made her want to tumble and flow and caress. It was a different sound than the one she was used to hearing. It was tinkling and playful rain for her parched soul. She observed from across the border, moving closer, purring like a curious cat as she surveyed the rows and rows of patterned cups. It had been a long time since she’d felt the urge to move at all.
For longer than she cared to admit, she had been colored like a storm of bruised clouds, breath cold, sight fixed on a distance sun that no longer shone for her. She had burnt out it’s light with her consuming need and now she was the one in shadow, walking but not touching. Observing but not speaking. Occasionally she would lash out at a memory when it teased her, passing through her and then away, leaving behind a murk that blended with the bruises. She would rev her throat and bare her malice, threatening without words, in an attempt to scare it away. It was the only genuine flash of life she showed.
Until the clinking.
She was absolutely dazzled by the symmetry and simplicity of their design. It wasn’t exactly beautiful but it was appealing in a geometric way. A patchwork quilt of roundness as far as she could see. Were they really content being so stationary? She hummed with fascination, coming closer, reaching out chilly tendrils to trace the curve of a shiny handle and then jerking back, giggling when the cup shifted away from her uncomfortably. The tea cups eyed her, shivering under the touch. The storm had taken an interest in them. Of course they were interesting and they were not surprised by this fact. But what did she want?
The cups stared at the storm and the storm stared at the cups. Each waited for something to happen but of course, the cups would never move first. That would disrupt the order of things and they were content with the way things were. They stared and stared, settling on a passing acceptance that the other would not do harm. The cups had weathered storms before. They sat resilient, hunkered down until the screeching and flailing was done. Then went about righting themselves back into their proper places. He would wait, as always, for this one to pass as well. And she would, once she grew tired of his simple contentment. He was confident of that.
She moved over the cups no, enjoying the sound of them as they clinked and tinkled when she drew closer. She couldn’t tell if they were annoyed at her intrusion, chattering at her to ‘shoo, shoo! Go away!’ or merely informing its neighbor to be ready. Not knowing the answer excited her. They had a secret! She wanted to know! How did they work? How did they think? She needed to know. They were so different. She rumbled now with purpose but the tea cups didn’t drop their cool bravado. She would pass. They all did.
The storm slid back and forth across cups now, blanketing their sky with colors that weren’t blue. She moved from patch to patch, examining and cooing over their plain beauty. They shrank back under her scrutiny, not used to so much individual attention. They looked to each other for reassurance and clinked in their saucers.
She reached out to them more frequently now. She needed to in order to know them. They allowed her, reluctantly, to caress their curving gilt rims and trace their tiny leaf designs. She teased them, tickling their glossy bowls and causing them to slide a little sideways. She enjoyed it and they didn’t know why. She discovered the pepperoni cup, drawn to it’s red speckles, and laughed with delight, filling the sky with her rumbles. She lifted the cups at random and found growing things underneath, green and vibrant and well taken care of. She even found the empty cups but did not judge. She accepted it all. She touched and shifted the cups, sometimes on purpose and sometimes on accident in passing. But they didn’t mind, so long as she righted them again. Her touch, they observed, was not as chilly as before. And her colors were not so melancholy. She seemed to enjoy their noise, ordinary as it was. So they shivered harder and was rewarded with a burst of pink and orange light, covered quickly by the gloom. But it was beautiful when it happened.
The cups and the storm sank deeper into each other, practically unnoticed by the other. The cups reflected the colors of the storm and she saw how dark she made them, which saddened her. Their lovely calming bowls of green turned vivid purple and mud brown and cloudy yellow whenever she passed and it made her feel like she was stealing their happiness. So she made an effort to be brighter.
It startled the tea cups with its abruptness. It was like fireworks; a slight whistle to announce something spectacular, a flash and a BOOM! Sparkles and glitter and vibrancy! And then calm until the next one flew. Her happiness made them shake harder than ever, excited by the show and shaking off their cool bravado. They didn’t have to be afraid of the storm. They were confident of this now. She made them want to please her, to release her from her dark past and allow her colors to shine bright. The storm admired their bravery. Their messages delighted her and she thought she might start to understand the soldier cups soon.
She wove here and them among them now, comfortable in their presence and listening to their silence and sounds. They had a rhythm and routine and she liked to disrupt it as often as possible just to see them scramble to right it again. She knew now they weren’t scolding her or asking her to go away. It was more like a good-natured grumbling. The muttering of a parent with a toddler that had spilled her milk running to grab a toy from the floor. Her laugh was thunder and she turned gold like a summer sunset. The storm and the tea cups were content.
And then she noticed the chocolate cup tucked out-of-the-way. It sat there, plain as day and unruffled by anything. It was, after all, just a chocolate cup. The storm didn’t think so. She sped over to it, aghast. The rest of the cups were startled, as they often were in the newness of their relationship with the storm. When she turned to them, swirling with dark brown disbelief, they didn’t understand but were ready to defend the one with the many.
It was the first time the storm became The Tempest.
They weathered it, as they always did. They swirled in their saucers as the Tempest roared and argued. They chattered at her with their only weapon against her: opinions. Chocolate was good and sweet in small amounts! All chocolate was made equal! Expensive chocolate doesn’t mean “better” chocolate! She dumped heaps of displeasure into the cups, over filling them with her disgust and distemper. She tilted the cups over, stabbing at them with her own facts, trying to get them to concede. She purposely switched cups and saucers and refused to right them. She dumped carefully measured cups and tried forcing on them her plethora of opinions.
They did not bend or concede. They stood, resilient, against the Tempest, not angry with her in the least, merely wondering why, of all the cups in all the rows, was it this one that set her off. When she was done, some of the cups were scattered. Some had been filled with her storm and others shook her off as if she were merely a light shower. They righted themselves for the most part. Settled back into their original saucers and bailed out the excess facts and opinions that didn’t belong there. But during the process, quite suddenly, they discovered something startling. It left them blinking after the Tempest in amazement as she slowly subsided, pouting but still as close to them as ever. Her version of the “cold shoulder” but it was adorable nonetheless. If it was HER, the cups realized, they didn’t mind a little disorder among the ranks.
Was this a lesson she was trying to teach him? Or was it a happy accident?
He would never really understand the answer to that question because it happened so many more times. The storm had hidden wells of unresolved anger and sorrow masked by her bright colors and sometimes he stumbled on one accidentally. Sometimes she decided to show one to him unannounced and the tea cups put another storm under their battered rims.
She grew attached to the cups though, despite their myriad disagreements. She relies on them a lot; probably too much. The cups, as delicate as they seemed at first, where anchors for her wings, made of the strongest steel. When she looks into the cups, she sees a better reflection of herself staring out of them, a storm worth living up to. She’s filled some of those cups with her dreams and hopes and crazy bucket list fantasies so that if she ever forgets any of them, the cups could remind her. They, who never forget anything.
Thank you, my darling Owen. You are a bigger part of my life than you’ll ever conceive. One of the most beloved parts. And as soon as one of these damn books sell, it’s Book Tour Blanket Fort time!! You bring the Burn Notice and I’ll bring the snacks 😉 I love you.