The Yellow Cup
(Last Night’s Dream – in Technicolor, Dolby sensaround sound….)
I am sitting in a large and airy coffee establishment – Starbucks, Peet’s – something modern and well-designed. I have been drinking coffee from a large yellow cup, the soup bowl type with a handle. I am with two friends and we are finished with our coffee but lingering over conversation. Three young men walk by, young, urban-hip; one of them notices my coffee cup and stops to pick it up and admire it. He asks if he can borrow it to drink his coffee from as he doesn’t want to use a paper cup. Flattered that he likes my cup and seems to be a kindred soul, I say yes. He has tousled blond hair and sharp blue eyes and my friends perk up a bit, taking note. He takes the cup and sits at a table over my shoulder, where I cannot see him but my friends, facing me, can.
Thirty minutes or so passes and my friends and I are ready to go. One of them reminds me about my coffee cup, nudging me to go retrieve it. However, I know somehow that this friend, being younger and single, is a more appropriate fetch so I ask her to go get it. She darts up from her chair and scoots over so quickly I know that she was waiting for this opportunity. Within a few seconds I hear the young men laughing and my friend returns with a cup, but it is much smaller and of a different color than the one I gave him. That’s not my cup, I say to her. She looks abashed. I didn’t think so, she tells me, but they kept assuring me it was and I felt like a fool. Suddenly, my two friends are anxiously pointing – They’re leaving, they’re leaving with your cup, go get it!
Inside I am half aware that this is not a good course of action but not wanting to seem like a patsy I get up and go after them. They have left the building by this time and soon I am running to keep up with them. It’s almost like they’re baiting me to chase them.
They board a sort of trolley car that looks as if it is a boat on tracks with a couple of decks and really nice, art deco décor. I am wandering through the rooms and up and down the stairs before I finally find them and ask for the cup from the tousled blond that took it. He smiles mischievously. I don’t have your cup, he says, I gave it to your friend. I hold up the cup – this is not my cup. Mine was large, yellow, and bowl-shaped. Oh, he says, eyes twinkling, my mistake. Let me go get your cup. He disappears for a minute or so and then returns with another cup, small, delicate, with a pointed cap – more like a little urn than a cup.
That’s not it either, I said. Come on –give me my cup. By this time I notice that the trolley has been traveling, rather quickly, up and down streets I don’t recognize. I think that we must be in Long Beach as this is the only city I know that has trolley cars, but I don’t see anything that looks familiar and I realize I didn’t bring my purse or phone. A slight panic arises in me.
Just give me my cup, okay? Therein ensues what seems to be 30 or 40 minutes of cat-and-mouse game playing on this young man’s part while his friends lounge nearby whispering to each other and laughing. He shows me my cup through a locked glass door, taunting me to retrieve it, but when I break the door open to access it the cup has disappeared. He tells me my cup is in his bag and hands it to me to plumb. I keep pulling out cups but none of them is mine. He then leaves the room, promising to retrieve it and I am chasing him again through the rooms and hallways of this fabulous trolley car. I somehow become aware through this process that he is a rich, spoiled brat, that he owns the trolley car, and this little game is a passing amusement for him and his friends.
When I finally find him again I begin to plead with him, hoping he will see my anguish and relent. By this time I realize that I am miles from my friends, I have no idea where I am or how to return to the coffee shop, I have no money and no phone and no coat and it appears to be snowing lightly outside. I tell him I am completely vulnerable, describing my situation, appealing to his sense of humanity, asking for him to please empathize and quit playing stupid games with me. I ask this repeatedly, five, six, or seven times. It seems at this point to have become about much more than obtaining the cup, but I can’t quite grasp what I am trying to convey to him other than to reach out to him as fellow human being.
His eyes continue to twinkle and he smiles as he reaches into a cupboard and pulls out yet another permutation of the cup-that-isn’t-my-cup and proffers it. Here you go, he says. At this point my frustration and perceived vulnerability are now combining into a frothing rage. I am appalled that somebody would treat a person this way, that they could remain impervious to my plight. His friends, meanwhile, continue observe our interactions and chuckle.
Suddenly, I have jumped on the young man, overpowered him and I am beating his head against the floor – not with all the force I could muster, but lightly as if to put on a show of what my anger and frustration could lead to if he didn’t listen to me. He does not respond or try to escape – just allows me to do it while remaining unresponsive through the pathetic beating I administer.
Meanwhile, the trolley trundles on and the snow is falling faster and I know that I am traveling further and further from my friends and will need to rely on help from strangers or passersby to find my way back again. I don’t know whether I am in America or a foreign country, whether I will know the language once I disembark, or how I will contact my friends with no money and no idea, I now realize, what the name or location of the coffee shop actually is.
I decide I need to get off the trolley at this point but I am so angry and frustrated that I grab the young man by his coat sleeve and begin dragging him along with me, vaguely thinking of finding a policeman or some sympathetic stranger who will convince him to relinquish my cup. He bumps along beside me, face down, up stairs and down halls and is otherwise unmoving. A vague sense of unease begins to creep up in me, as if I might have inadvertently hurt him; yet I am still so angry and scared and single-minded in my need to get help that I continue on.
We finally board an escalator and reach the top, me dragging him still by the sleeve only he catches at the top and goes under the rim of the escalator while I am still holding his arm and part of me thinks I should pull him out but instead I let go and he is sucked in and down as the escalator stairs fold (yes, I know this is physically impossible, but it’s a dream remember.) One of his friends is now walking beside me and he winces, grins, and says: that hurt. And I picture the tousled-hair man falling into the hidden mysterious mechanisms of the escalator and getting flattened by the gears and I don’t feel a bit of remorse.
Only then it dawns on me that I may have committed MURDER, I may have actually killed this person, this stranger who began the afternoon walking by my table and admiring my cup and that his two friends witnessed the whole thing and that I had no excuse other than he stole it from me as a twisted prank and kept taunting me despite my pleas to stop. And I had this horrible, mind-numbing sinking knowledge of how a person must feel when they get so caught up in an emotion that their reason and humanity disappear and they act blindly, stupidly, and end up killing another person without ever meaning to. I knew that I done something in an instant that would change my life forever and I had no recollection of how I had arrived at that action or what compelled me to act that way. And I also knew that there was nothing I could do to take it back or make it not have happened.
And then I woke up. (And I was SO damn glad I could’ve cried because my situation had seemed so bleak mere moments before.)
Every nuance of this dream stayed crystal clear throughout the hours of the morning until I finally had to write it down.
The yellow coffee cup is exactly the one from which I drink my coffee every morning.
I have no idea who the young man, his friends, or my friends were or where I was.
I feel very disoriented still with a lingering sense of unease and am left pondering the message of this dream.