Photo by Simon Daoudi on Unsplash
by Chandler Jernigan
There is nothing in this world that has the astonishing ability to be a beacon of hope in the darkness of night than the bright yellow and black sign that one sees in a drunken haze. One of those nights I stumbled into the infamous Waffle House like I had so many times before. The perfect mixture of the sweet smell of waffle batter, the salty air of bacon grease and sticky tables just made me feel at home. There, I found something I did not expect myself to become so attached to: a Waffle House coffee mug.
I marched into the diner towards my usual spot. I was disappointed to see other people sitting there. I found another booth, but the unfamiliar seat creaked and dug into the small of my back. I waited a long while for the server to take my order. I could have made my presence more known or called the lady over; however, I had this mug in my hand, and I was surprisingly okay with just that. I had nothing to do but stare at this beautiful mug. Perfect in its hourglass design, knowing full well that it makes a smaller cup of coffee, I saw it as a means to keep itself full of hot coffee. My stomach growled and my back ached, which fueled the fire of my anger, and the only comfort I enjoyed was this mug in my hands. During the long wait, I plotted a devious plan. This mug was coming home with me.
After paying, I decided it was time for my new companion and I to leave and go home. I grabbed the cup and put it in my jacket, then walked out the door. Not used to this type of behavior, I felt the rush of breaking the rules, like a real criminal. My hands trembled as I began to get in my car. I expected fire and brimstone to begin falling from the sky or lightning to strike me for my sins against the world. I felt empowered by this impulsive act at the Waffle House, unlike any other experience I had there. Once I arrived home, I cleaned the mug and placed it alongside my perfectly matched set of generic mugs.
I used my proudly stolen Waffle House mug as much as I possibly could. I took it with me to work in the morning, and I carried it around with me everywhere I went as I toiled through my daily tasks at my low-level insurance job. I had no intention of releasing the secret of how I came about owning such a laughable mug, no matter how much anyone decided to question me about it. Everything about this mug was great to me. Even its use was complementary to my daily life. I never needed any other mug, and I grasped this mug like I would never drink out of another cup again. I felt strong and confident holding this mug because it showed that I was still just a kid – impulsive, stupid and, more importantly, not a boring adult with responsibility and perfectly upright morals.
All of the sudden, I had a child, then another one, and then a foster son. Through each newborn phase, I could not keep my eyes open or have a modicum of coherency to my words due to each baby waking up all hours of the night. The solution came to me as an old friend: a warm, inviting and exhilarating coffee mug. I needed coffee more than any other time in my life, when I had lied to myself about its necessity in the past. So naturally, I creaked open the cabinet and saw my prize once again: a beautiful, out-of-place Waffle House mug; a blast from the past; a reminder of my freedom and aloofness to the world around me. It reminded me of the life I had before children and how no matter how much I love and cherish all my sons, I also loved and missed parts of my life that I had taken for granted in the past.
One morning, after finally getting enough sleep, I opened my cabinet once again and saw my stolen coffee mug. This time was different. I saw it in a light that made me question my reality as a parent. I was faced with two wrongs that do not make a right. I either tell my children about how I stole this mug and I’m proud of it, or I lie to them and possibly break their trust in the future. This mug was pulling me in so many directions that I had no idea where to go. This mug was becoming a dark shadow of my past, and I could never share my love for this mug with my children. I stared at the mug for what seemed like an eternity, picking and choosing in my mind what I would do about this mug that I had loved and cherished for such a long time. I grabbed a mug that had not been used in a very long time instead. A plain, normal, boring blue mug that I bought at a store.
I think back to how I had taken the mug and how there was no harm done at the moment. I made a ripple into this present moment where I now had to put it away. I went from having so much pride and closeness with the mug to feeling guilt and shame for having it out around my kids. I opened a trunk of trinkets and keepsakes that I have collected over the years and placed one of my most prized possessions into it, the stolen Waffle House mug.