I own a camouflage coffee tumbler. I bought it several years ago when I was living in Tallahassee, Florida. I was in film school and had no reliable way to transport coffee from my apartment, down the creepy trail out back and to class, so I was in the market for a cheap, reliable tumbler that could also express my personality.
I found a camouflage one in the home goods aisle at Publix. It tickled my fancy because I found it so useless. Do hunters really think it necessary to have coffee cups camouflaged? Would a deer really be about to munch on some nuts or grass or twigs or whatever it is that deer eat but then perk up, the delightful aroma of roasted beans filling its nostrils, and scan the wilderness, its eyes locking onto a suspicious black mug with suspicious steam suspiciously wafting from its suspicious top, and then dash away?
It was ridiculous, but I supposed camouflage was more about selling you a lifestyle than anything actually prudent.
I bought the cup and was still using it on January first, two thousand and seventeen.
I had high hopes for the new year. I was three months into my new job and finally starting to figure things out. I didn’t have to work at Starbucks anymore, and I could afford the basic necessities that enabled me to be distinguished as a human being rather than one of our half simian ancestors: razors, shampoo, soap and groceries.
I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe there is no time like the present to do what you want, to change your life. The only person stopping you from achieving that is you.
But I had also never worked a full time job that ate up most of my day and left me too tired to exercise or write or learn songs or trawl the internet looking for eligible women. These things were easy to do when I worked twenty hours a week. Working forty plus, however, made it quite a bit more difficult.
Resolutions happen when you aren’t happy with something in your life, usually a habit, and you want to fix it.
So I had decided to get back on the laptop and start writing again. It was a thrilling prospect.
So I sat at my desk, my camouflage cup steaming with turmeric tea beside me, and I wrote for about ten minutes, and then I didn’t know what to do next.
It wasn’t writer’s block. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. It was simply that the idea I was working on was so loose that I needed to give it a good back-of-the-mind think before I actually started putting keys to digital paper.
I decided to take a walk. I saw a graph one time that showed how much more active a brain is after a brisk stroll. The weather was perfect, fifty degrees and windy, but with a clear, blue sky and smogless air that promised a bright year indeed. It was also mid-afternoon, and the sun was beginning its descent. The sky was afire with beautiful colors. I walked outside and breathed in the chill. It was perfect.
I called my Mom. We chatted as I walked. I got home, invigorated and ready to tackle a new project. I grabbed my computer from my desk and went to the couch downstairs.
I realized I didn’t have my camouflage cup with me.
I checked my room.
There was no camouflage cup.
I checked the kitchen.
There was no camouflage cup.
I thought back and recalled that I had stopped at some point during my walk to take off my hood of or readjust my shoe. I remembered setting my cup down on a post, or a column, or maybe a low wall.
I also begrudgingly realized the humor in being unable to find a camouflage cup.
I must have left out in the neighborhood, cold and alone, waiting for me like an orphaned child in the quickly approaching Los Angeles night.
I had to go find it. I couldn’t get anything written, I couldn’t even scribble a single letter without my camouflage tumbler. It made it through film school, it survived the three-thousand-mile drive to California. It held beer and coffee and wine and tea and liquor and soda and just plain water. It’s seen it all, that weathered old cup, and it lived to tell the tale.
I rushed outside, grabbing only my keys, and power walked to the first street I walked down. My eyes were wide, taking in as much light as possible, trying desperately to spot my camouflaged, plastic friend.
The trouble with camouflaged cups resting on posts or low walls, I soon realized, was that they blended in perfectly with the local flora. I was taken aback with how difficult it was to differentiate a bushy outcropping from a possible camouflaged Tervis Tumbler. I had to walk up and inspect every bush to make sure I didn’t miss it.
My, what the neighbors must have thought as I rummaged through their shrubbery, cursing to myself and frowning.
I was feeling lightheaded too, but not in a bad way. It was more of a pleasant buzz from the antibiotics I was taking combined with the feeling of finally getting over my sinus infection. The shadows were long on the streets that afternoon, and there wasn’t another soul about. It felt like a dream, a terrible, beautiful nightmare in which I lost my favorite cup.
I turned down a new street and saw two people sitting on the roof of an old house. They looked like models and flashed perfect smiles at me as I passed. I waved. It reminded me of relaxing afternoons on Marco Island, drinking Jeff’s Mom’s rum punch and watching the world float by on white fishing boats.
The models seemed like they were the last two members of a formerly large New Years party, soaking up the last electric charges of two thousand and sixteen and looking forward to what was to come.
They soon lost interest in me, instead turning the unblemished visages toward the golden-pink evening horizon. I passed with no incident, stopping only at their mailbox to ensure I hadn’t left my cup on top of it.
Alas, it was as cupless as the day it was cobbled together, an inauspicious start to a new year.
A gaggle of school girls approached from further down the street. I could hear their shrieks and giggles from half a block away. I could tell from their demeanor that wouldn’t surrender even an inch of sidewalk, and so, as they drew near, I stepped aside into the grass.
The last time I did this I fell in a hole and sprained my ankle.
This time I just stepped in dog poop.
I judged from the consistency that it was old dog poop, which was a blessing, since I reckoned old dog poop would probably be less pungent than the fresh stuff.
I tried to scrape my shoe clean as I walked, causing me to have a bizarre, rocking gait as if I were auditioning to play the part of Igor in a Frankenstein reboot. I reached the end of the street, still relatively certain the poo remained, and I realized that I was done.
I had gone down all the streets I walked before.
My cup was on none of them.
Someone must have taken it or thrown it away.
I could see it now, a quaint family coming home from church to find a mysterious camouflaged Tervis Tumbler with something insidious and orange brewing inside of it. The terror they must have felt.
“How? What?” The Mother would ask.
“Don’t look at it, dear,” the Husband would say, shielding his families eyes as best he could, “It might be the work of ISIS.”
“Do you think?”
“Obama has left us defenseless, I’m afraid. Situations like strange coffee cups appearing on people’s posts are only going to become more common.”
“But what can we do?”
“We can be strong. For the children.”
“For the children.”
They probably called the bomb squad shortly thereafter, who disposed of it with a controlled detonation.
A shame. My cup deserved better.
There was one more street to my left. I was relatively certain I hadn’t walked it’s length earlier, but I would be remiss if I didn’t exhaust all of my options.
The cup wasn’t there, either, so I headed home.
A man walked a good dozen yards in front of me. He wore a dirty hat and was angrily talking on the phone.
He stopped and turned. I saw he had no phone.
I kept my distance, walking slow enough that he gained a steady lead. He eventually stopped to talk at an older couple walking their dogs.
“But that’s the things about kids,” I heard him say as I passed. He sounded like Droopy from Looney Tunes. “The thing about kids is that they like anything you show them. Like Donald Trump.”
“The problem with Donald Trump,” the old man said, “is that he doesn’t mean anything he says, or that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
“But what’s the difference between him and now?”
“Him and now?” The old man asked. “I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Before now and now. What’s the difference?”
“The difference is that he’s the president, and he can make some very important decisions.”
“Kids like anything you show them,” Droopy agreed.
I left them to solve the world’s problems.
The walk home was cold. Perhaps this year wouldn’t be any different. Perhaps it’s promises were already disintegrating into lies. Perhaps I wouldn’t write more screenplays or finish two more novels. Perhaps I wouldn’t sell another story or monetize my finished book. Perhaps the new job wouldn’t last. Perhaps all my teeth would rot out.
I poop-shoed my way into the apartment and up the stairs.
My camouflage cup was on my desk.
Waiting for me.
I just hadn’t looked
I picked it up.
The tea was still warm.