In a thrift store, I found a white, hand-painted mug for 99 cents. The front read Meg in loving, loopy, lipstick-red script. The back:
April 16, 1994
Meg and Rachel met at a bar when Rachel caught Meg’s eye from across the bar and sent a bourbon-and-coke her way with a wink and a kiss on a napkin. They met in the middle and danced off-beat to The Cardigans and The Go Gos. Meg was trying too hard. Rachel asked for her number anyway. Rachel waited three days before calling, during which time Meg may have had one too many cups of coffee and a few too many cigarettes.
They went for a drink after Meg’s shift on a Friday night and tumbled into Rachel’s apartment, shedding clothes and inhibitions. Rachel made French toast and strong coffee, and Meg fed her strawberries while she cooked. They spent the day together and split a bowl of nachos for dinner.
Six months to the day they met, Meg asked Rachel to move in with her. Rachel said yes and made Meg a mug in ceramics class. On the front, she painted Meg in her distinctive handwriting, and on the back:
April 16, 1994
She chose a shade of red that reminded her of Meg’s satin knickers and the nub of lipstick she smeared across her mouth whenever they went out.
Meg made space in her cupboards for Rachel’s mugs and Rachel’s jeans and Rachel’s shoes and Rachel’s deodorant. They shared a tube of toothpaste, and took turns cooking dinner for each other. They danced off-beat to No Doubt and The Bangles.
In July, Rachel left dishes in the sink and Meg left her a passive-aggressive note without a kiss on it. Meg let her dirty underwear pile up on the chair in their bedroom until it was spilling onto the floor. Rachel made herself a cup of hot chocolate and didn’t make one for Meg. And then Meg cooked a single serve of spinach-and-ricotta ravioli with truffle oil sauce, and Rachel watched her eat it from the door of their bedroom. She silently packed in the morning, and Meg watched her go with eyes trained on an article in Vanity Fair.
Meg tried to collect the things Rachel had left behind, and only managed to find a pair of shoes (high-heeled, scarlet, bows on the toes), a sad-looking beret (navy blue), a packet of Tic Tacs (orange), and the mug. She packed them into a pink holographic gift bag, which Rachel accepted with a liquid expression. She said “Are you trying to hurt me?” and “This was a gift!” and “I think you should keep it” and “Don’t try to erase me!”
Meg put the mug at the back of her cupboard. She moved it to three different apartments, and finally to a house in the suburbs with a tree in the front yard and a dog in the back. In 2012, she packed a box full of books and toys and her children’s clothes, and decided to sort through the crockery. She nestled the mug into the box between a Furby and a pair of teeny tiny red capris.
I bought the mug along with a kettle, a German beer stein, and a tourist guidebook called “James Dean Died Here.”