I bought a mug from the Celestial Realm Coffeehouse in Birmingham, Alabama. At work, it disappeared from the communal kitchen for weeks, once. It’s just a mug, and I was heartbroken. First of all, the Celestial Realm Coffeehouse no longer exists. I bought the mug from the owner who, while scrutinizing me over the tops of her pink-rimmed bifocals, asked if I wanted to buy the entire coffeehouse. She said she’d make me a great deal on the place, furniture included, freezer and coffee bar too, only several grand. I wanted to, and yet I could not imagine another anchor to Birmingham, not when I was so miserable there without a coffeehouse.

Secondly, so many of the precious few good times happened for me in the ‘Realm, the most important ones involving friends now scattered across the globe and a group called the Birmingham Boardgamers. We would sit for hours around rickety tables in pathetic chairs, laughing and conversing, overflowing ashtrays emptied, coffee cups pushed out of the way for the real connecting to take place.

And lastly, because I was so naive back then to think that once a friend, always a friend, and that I would never be on the breaking side of a friendship.

The mug resurfaced. I immediately wrote “hmb” on the bottom of it in black permanent marker and thanked anyone who happened to be in the kitchen with me for the next few days. After those first days, I noticed a hairline fracture around the bottom edge of the mug’s handle. It occurred to me that someone had used it, broken it, and instead of throwing it away, had glued it back together and carefully replaced it in the kitchen.

I may no longer be naive, but I still have hope.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.