“Shoot!” The exclamation punctuated the sound of pottery shattering.
My neighbor, Karen had dropped a cup. It lay in shards across the hard kitchen tile.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a cup. I have others,” I say, fetching the broom and dustpan.
“I am sorry, sometimes I’m just so clumsy.”
“Ah... it was just an old coffee cup, nothing to worry about.”
My knees creak as I stoop to gather the shards. Recognizing it, I pause, lost in a moment’s reverie, but soon recover and continue to gather the pieces.
“Let me find a nice one to replace it. I just saw some beautiful cups down at Cup & Saucer, and they do carry some fantastic items there.”
“Karen, it was just a cup.”
Undeterred, she continues, “But Tom, I insist! You could go with me, make it a lunch and some quick shopping. It would be my treat.”
“I do appreciate it, but no.” I softly answer as I sweep the last fragments into the dustpan.
“Tom…”, she pauses as if choosing her words carefully, “look, you really do need to get out more often, no one sees you out any more since…”
I look up into her eyes.
“Tom… I’m sorry. I don’t know when to stop talking, do I? It’s just that…”
“Really, it’s okay.” But we both know it isn’t.
“Well, I really have to go, but I will pick up some nice cups for you.” She heads for the door. “And I won’t take no for an answer.”
I follow her, the dustpan of broken pottery still in my hand. “It was nice of you to stop by… and please don’t worry about replacing the cup.”
“Well, ’bye then. See you soon.” She smiles as I softly close the door.
I turn back toward the empty kitchen, walk slowly to the garbage pail and stop.
“Just an old coffee cup.” Tears run down my cheek as I remember my wife’s eyes, peering over the edge of it each morning, as she would gaze at the sunrise.
“Just an old coffee cup.” I repeat softly. “But it was hers.”
As if in slow motion, I watch the fragments slide out of the dustpan and tumble into the pail.