I was drinking my morning tea when something astonishing occurred: I tilted my head back to empty the mug, and lo and behold I saw a reflection of myself in the porcelain.
Actually, that in and of itself really isn’t astonishing. My mug-based reflection is something I have seen hundreds of times before – literally every time I drink something from a mug, which is frequently. But on this particular morning, I didn’t tilt my bug back down; I just kept staring at it, taking in all its contorted disfigurement.
Those of you who have had the vanity (as I do) to stare at yourself in the bottom of the mug may know what I’m talking about: the roundness of the mug cast a baby-like shape to my face, and my eye, unchanged, seemed to barely fit. It was the image of an unfortunate baby cyclops with a particularly misshapen facial structure.
I have heard artists say that if you want to make a cartoon character appear younger, you make the eyes bigger relative to the head. It occurred to me that perhaps it was not me looking back from within the mug, but rather an infantile, childish me – a cartoon caricature of an early me from the past.
Growing up, I drank tea all the time, and as a result I developed an association with tea and cold rainy days in the Bay Area. Tea was comfort. Tea was maternal warmth. Tea was health. It was protection from the elements. I could always count on tea to make me happy; it has never failed me. Not once. I’m not sure I could say the same about most other things in my life. If good friends were purchasable for cheap in disposable bags at the grocery store, perhaps they, too, would be a reliable source of immediate happiness wherever I may be. But, as it is, people tend to exist elsewhere.
And as I felt my youthful associations with the leafy aftertaste combine with my gaze at my disfigured caricature, an idea came to my mind: It seems that, through tea, my past keeps watch over my life.
I looked at my baby-self in the mug and winked. Naturally, he winked back.