Goodbye, Pittsburgh

Commemorative Pittsburgh mugs.

It’s ridiculous that such a product was ever available for resale, let alone that it should be a valued commodity. But he won’t drink his coffee from anything else, lying that the constricted space created by the ceramic handles fit his large hands “just right.” Colored like Christmas, fragile despite their bulk, I know why they’re his favorites. Pittsburgh is where she lived, she whose name we do not speak.

As if a language without her name could keep her out of the house.

As if she isn’t hiding inside every one of that gaudy set of mugs.

He never mentioned that she was from Pittsburgh, but coming home from a yard sale with these ridiculous vessels, poorly painted to depict various aspects of the city and its steel industry, he never had to explain. As the designated dish washer in our home, I have studied their depictions for months: imagining her walking under the charcoal gray I-beams at the moment the cable breaks on the City of Industry mug; picturing her plummeting from any one of the dozen bridges depicted on the City of Bridges mug.

While I wash, he’s at the TV. He doesn’t watch, he just stares, as if waiting for a message, and as soon as he determines that the message is not coming from the mouth of Robert Mitchum or Chuck Woolery, he changes the channel.

Tonight, the cheap wooden drying rack is once again overflowing its limited capacity, and I am done with Pittsburgh. Their bulk clutters the rack, occupying more space than their function warrants. I hear Jerry Seinfeld in the other room, then Mario that fat, boring chef, a new monologue with each dish I rinse and try to place, precariously, into the dish rack.

But there isn’t enough space for everything.

So I gently extricate the Three Rivers Stadium mug from the tangle of drying items and place it squarely, upside down, in the empty sink. Next, I extract the City of Bridges from the drainer, hold the second mug above the sink at my arm’s highest extension, close my eyes and release.

“Oh, no,” I exclaim with a smile that can’t be heard in the next room.

“Are you okay?” he asks, taking the trouble to push the mute button but not yet certain the incident will require his physical presence.

“I’m fine. I dropped a mug while I was rinsing the dishes.”

Of course, he comes, speechless at the sight of the jagged remains of the Pittsburgh waterfront in the basin of the kitchen sink, a colorful blur of broken architecture.

“These don’t fit very well anyway,” I insist, daring him to differ. He knows better.

“Well,” he utters with a shrug, “at least we still have the other two from the set.” He turns and returns to the gospel of Alan Alda.

I pull the chunks of ceramic from the sink, thinking about those other two mugs.

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