It’s been three days since Peter went missing. The police came to question me today.
– Please call us if you think of anything else – the inspector said as he was handing me his business card.
I told him I couldn’t do that as I didn’t own a phone.
– Not even a cellphone?
I told him I had never gotten one of those things. Too much radiation.
– How do you communicate with family? Friends? – he insisted.
I shook my head, indicating I didn’t have any. I told him if it was something urgent, I’d write a letter. The inspector seemed annoyed.
– I guess you’ll have to take a walk to the station.
I told him I’d rarely leave the apartment. I normally go out only when I need to do grocery shopping. He left without saying goodbye. The manners are completely eluding people these days. However, I was glad he had left because it was almost noon, which meant it was time for a coffee.
I was going to make myself a cup of coffee and enjoy it on the balcony from a Purple cup. Noon is the time for a Purple set. Sometimes, usually on sunny days, I would swap Purple with Turquoise set, but that was an exception, not the rule.
As I sit on the balcony, I observe youngsters on the street. They are in a hurry, walking up and down the street, like ants. Always busy, never having the time to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of life. Peter is a busy young man as well. I often see him wearing a suit, leaving early in the morning and coming back late in the evening. Unlike the others, Peter has manners. He moved into the apartment next door a few years back and he immediately came to introduce himself. Noticing that grocery shopping was a burden for me, he offered to do it for me sometimes.
When he first brought me some food from the local supermarket, he noticed my collection of cups.
– Ms. Rose, you have so many amazing cups.
I was proud. Not only of my collection, which I knew was astonishing but also of Peter, for noticing it. I showed him my Marble set, six black and white cups which I particularly liked. It was given to me by Mikka for our anniversary, but I couldn’t remember which one exactly. My poor Mikka. Such a terrible thing that happened to him. They never found the body. He was such a good man, always taking care of me. Sometimes he would mention I needed to get a job or a more constructive hobby, but I would, of course, laugh it off. Poor Mikka. But I must admit I liked the apartment more since he was gone. I redecorated it the way I liked it. I got rid of Mikka’s old study room, removed his desk and bookshelves and threw away dusty old books. That way I had more room for cupboards filled with my cups, organized by color, day and purpose.
Peter mentioned he also owns a set of cups he is extremely proud of. It was apparently very expensive, something his mother acquired during her travels in China and passed it on to Peter after her death. Speculation was it originated from the time of the Ming dynasty itself. Intrigued, I wanted to see the set and Peter was kind enough to let me do so. The cups were cute, I will admit. Each cup was black with a golden lining. The middle of each cup contained a picture of a little Chinese woman with a big red flower in her hair, embedded in a white circle. Peter was standing by me as I was observing the cups and looked at me like he was awaiting some sort of revelation. His body was crunched in excitement. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was beyond my understanding how anyone could think these cups originated during the time of the Ming dynasty. I told him the cups were produced in a very modern China, not the ancient one. You could probably find dozens of the same or similar sets in the market. Peter got upset. He called me a liar and asked me to leave. I guess people get upset when you disturb a memory of their mother.
What Peter failed to comprehend was that besides the eye-catching but useless fake China cups, he had a beautiful set of bone China cups, a set of white cups with purple asymmetric lines. Lines were asymmetric, but if you would look at them from a right angle they would form little tree branches. Such a simple elegance. I tried talking to Peter to calm him down and convince him to sell that set to me. He wouldn’t listen and just wanted me gone.
It would be a while until I would see Peter again. A few months had passed at least. I couldn’t stop thinking about those cups and how well they would fit next to my Rosemary set. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Peter brought me newspapers. I love reading newspapers. They remind me of everything that’s wrong with the world nowadays. I invited Peter for a cup of coffee. He was hesitant a bit at first, but agreed to it eventually. We would have coffee from a Black set, a set of completely black cups with little golden stars on it. They are different than the rest of my collection. You wouldn’t be able to tell a story by watching them and they seemed somehow lifeless. Peter started talking about his job, something about financial trading that I didn’t understand, but I let him talk. His voice was deep but at the same time gentle and soothing. He asked me about my life. I told him I mostly collect cups and observe the world from a safe distance. His blue eyes widened suddenly, but it was not because of what I was saying. He started to sweat and was gasping for air. After a few moments, he fell to the floor with a loud thump, still trying to catch a breath. I waited until I was sure he wasn’t breathing anymore, leaned over his body and searched his pocket for keys.
I knew I didn’t have much time. Rushingly, I went to his apartment, trying not to touch anything and going straight for the cupboard. The beautiful cups were there waiting for me. I carried them carefully back to my apartment, where the coffee I made for Peter was still warm. I put the cups down, sat on the sofa and lit a cigarette. I don’t smoke normally, but that time it really felt good. Mikka taught me that nicotine is such a deadly poison and pretty much indistinguishable in a strong cup of coffee. He was a chemist and always intrigued by what you could achieve just by combining the appropriate elements. Unknowingly, he taught me that perchloric acid can dissolve a human body completely. But I had a few more hours before I should occupy myself with that task.
For now, I just wanted to enjoy my cigarette and a newly acquired set of cups. I still didn’t have a name for it. I think I’m going to name if after Peter.