She sets the mug on the coaster. The coaster is new but the coaster is a print of a map of a long time ago. There is no condensation; there is no reason to use the coaster. There is habit and there is belief and there is the feeling that when one does something right, right is returned in kind.
She sets the mug, filled with hot water and not much else, on the coaster. The lack of else is because there is nothing to put in it, really; the last of the tea was left out on the windowsill to appease the birds whose silver beaks always intruded before morning. Water is dependable, and it is somewhat free, and as it happens it can be boiled without incident, with only the moment of shrieking before being plucked from the burner.
She sets the teapot on the counter. It is dark and so the birds are silent. Maybe they have been replaced with clocks, or protractors, or other tools that sleep at night. There is no coaster for the teapot, and although she knows the word is trivet, and wonders of its relation to trivial, she leaves it and hopes it will burn.
It does not burn.
The ceramic of the mug, tepid, offers no reassurance to her fingers. It is slick and featureless and would be any mug in any bargain bin. She does not remember it not being in her cupboard, but she does not particularly remember it being in it. Somehow the mug exists separately from the rest of her kitchen, from her hands, from the light and from the water. It could have been left behind by the last tenant. It could have been left behind by the birds. They were always leaving things she didn’t understand: ticket stubs to shows she had never seen, collars of pets she never owned, scalpels and clips and thread of wounds she would not close.
They do not close.
Water for tea is hotter than tears. She knows it, but she fills the mug anyway. If the birds come, then they come. What kind of person would prevent a nest with eggs inside it? Even if the eggs are fists and the nest is an empty promise. Even if.