For my birthday, I received a teapot crafted in the shape of an animal skull. A ram’s head, judging by its long spout and large horns. Such a strange gift, I thought, as I don’t drink tea.
When I saw Reuben, the friend who gave me the teapot, a fortnight later he asked, “Elsa, have you made tea yet?”
“No,” I replied. “The days have spilled by, but I will endeavor to do so soon.”
“There is nothing in the world that compares to sipping tea by a sunny brook on a winter’s morning,” Reuben said in his charming accent.
That same day, I bought fresh tea leaves, a teacup and saucer, and a strainer, all the while thinking that this teapot has become a very expensive and onerous possession to uphold. When I arrived home, I made a pot of tea and took it outside into the courtyard. As I waited for the hot water to seep into the leaves, I watched a white cloud form into the shape of an elephant’s head and then blend into an elegant woman’s legs.
I drank one cup, then another.
Once a day for the next few months I made a ritual of sitting in the courtyard, sipping tea, imagining worlds in the clouds, and pondering life. With each pour into my teacup, I poured a little of myself back into the teapot, the parts I didn’t like, the parts I no longer needed.
Day after day, week after week, I sat and poured and drank, and gave more of myself away.
When the pot was filled with all my anger and hurt and guilt and shame and jealousy and memories of intense pain, I poured a little more grief and bitterness and shyness and blame on top, and it began overflowing. That was when I stopped my new habit of drinking tea.
Now, what should I do? I asked myself.
I decided to do what all loving souls do when there is a little death.
After purchasing a casket, the size suited for an infant, I placed the teapot inside, careful not to break it and then took it to the priest. He gave me a sorrowful glance and organized a burial service.
A few weeks later, when I saw Reuben, he asked, “How is the teapot I gave you?”
“The teapot is no more,” I said, “but it’s fortuitous as I lost the taste for tea.”
“What a pity.” He shook his head and I could feel his mingled sense of regret and loss.
“No, Reuben, it’s not.”
“Because the death of that teapot was a gift in disguise. The priest told me that as life is to the living, so death is to the dead; and the same hand pours a serving of both to us all.” “So I can’t buy you another one, Elsa?”
I laughed. “Let it go, Reuben. I’ve had enough tea for one life.”
Copyright © L.A. Golding 2019