Monday, December 29, 2008

Bottom of the cup


Hot, milky tea with two sugars, barely even warm, barely even tea really, more of a soup of milk in a very large cup on my grandparent's couch on a Saturday afternoon. My feet barely grazing the carpet, dangling down from a mountain of cushions. Sometimes I fall asleep as my grandmother knits and sings to herself quietly, and solves the blocks of the crossword puzzle that stump my grandfather.

"Seven across, 9 letters, that's 'sanctuary', Jack."

I dream dreams saturated by the sounds of Saturday afternoon soccer pouring in from the television set as my grandfather whistles along with his team, makes sandwiches, answers the phone, attends to the easy warm business of domestic, married, retired life on the fourteenth floor of a tower block looking over the Mersey, leading out into the langorous Irish Sea.

When I wake up, bleary-eyed, relieved, my grandmother sings Good Morning Sunshine though it's the middle of the afternoon, and there's more tea waiting for me on the table. I pad across the carpet, thickly, calmly. I kneel on the chair and stare out over Liverpool's vista, counting the Churches, confident that the pretyt ones are Catholic. I look for my house, where my sisters are probably squabbling over a dolly, where my Mother is undoubtedly steaming cabbage and screaming at her husband amongst it all.

I can't find my house, I don't see it, this doesn't worry me, I take to the sea. I press my palms to the cermaic surface, unconciously testing the temperature. The tea is warm, dreamy, sleepy and I have a whole plate of biscuits too, two of each kind from the tin; two digestives, two chocolate digestives, two shortbreads, two rich tea and even a blue ribbon too.

"9 down is 'impenetrability'."

Enjoying my hoarde of biscuits, my buttery, sugary treats, I splash them about in my tea, like Gene Kelly with his umbrella in the puddles of a musical. As I come to the end of it, draining the blue mug to the last opalescent drops, I am startled, genuinely scared, to see someone looking back at me, scowling, staring directly at me, right into my eyes from the bottom of my cup. Looking at me from I don't know where, another world, another existence, I can't say but he's looking at me hungrily, deliberately and I am convinced immediately that I must not tell anyone what I can see, that I have discovered this face, or else I will be in terrible trouble.

I think I make a pact, silently, with this face, I think that we are bound up in something now, though I don't know why he chose me. Why he chose to appear to me out of all the children in the world, but I do know he's a dark power, black magic, pagan, heathen, witchcraft, Faust in a tea cup. Slowly, I lift my eyes away and up, I break from his gaze, and panicked I acknowledge that as long as I never meet his eyes again he can have no power over me. I swear to myself and Our Lady that I'll never, never look down at the bottom of my cup, ever again and I ask her to keep all of us safe from the Devil.

"Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Hail Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

"Seventeen down, nine letters, that's 'salvation'."

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