It was really nothing spectacular, an old doll mug, with gold decor and a painted flower; elegant, that’s true, but not extravagant, although the exquisite shape of the handle suggested a certain attention to detail. It had belonged to someone else.
Eight years ago, I got the apartment I still live in; it’s a small flat that used to belong to a larger apartment, that is, they had been two apartments used as one, with a door that was subsequently boarded up and, on my side, the old opening is now behind a bookshelf. Before moving in, my flat was partly renovated. A new kitchen was installed, a wall removed, new wallpapers in the one and only room, and the tiny hall was taken care of: new door, new floors, new painting on the wall, and I removed an awful 1950s wardrobe that was impossible to use in any practical manner whatsoever. It was built-in and had been there since the building was new. Its wooden floor was sligthly elevated, perhaps five centimeters above the floor of the hall itself.
Underneath this internal floor of the closet there lay — as you can vividly imagine, I suspect — dirt and dust collected over a fifty year time period. (Removing the wooden floor, I even had a mild attack of something unpleasant — I don’t suffer from asthma, but when the old nasty dust became airborne, I couldn’t breathe, and ran away coughing, gasping for air, at one point.)
Of course you can’t help but to consider the possibility there might be a treasure hidden in such a place. There wasn’t. I found a small — now obsolete — coin.
And, then, I found this mug, which is on the picture; it’s a small toy mug, its size about one centimeter, with gold and flower adornments. I kept it, in small chest, supposedly made by my grandfather. I keep small things in it, and this mug qualified as a ‘small thing’. It also qualified as a special thing, and although I knew nothing about it, I guessed it couldn’t have been new, because I knew no children had lived in the apartment in recent years and the mug looked old. Throwing it in the trash didn’t seem like an honourable option. So I kept it, not really knowing what to do with it.
Then, one day, outside in the avenue, I began talking with a lady, who was being taken on walks by a handsome, small terrier. Mr Dog said hello to the terrier — in other words, this coincidence was a consequence of dogly interference, rather than mere chance! –, and since the lady and the terrier lived close by, we occasionally continued to run into each other, and every now and then we chatted for a few minutes or so. Anyway, there, one day, she asked me where I lived. Upon finding out, she told me she grew up in the same building, having moved there when the building was brand new and she was perhaps ten years old or so (I don’t quite remember). Even more intriguingly, it turned out, in an apartment that was in reality meant to be two separate flats but used as one. Naturally, I immediately realized there was only one place she could possibly be talking about: this, mine.
She came over one day, allowed me to see old pictures from when she used to live here, and I suddenly remembered the mug I had found, under the old wardrobe, some years earlier, and I showed it to her: I had found a missing piece of her and her sister’s doll china, the rest of which still remained in her possession. Naturally, I offered the mug to her.
She declined, saying that after all this time it probably belonged to this place more than it belonged with her. That’s the reason I still have it, the reason I still keep it in the small wooden chest. I should probably pass it on to any future flat owner, but I’m not sure how to explain its existence or how it’s important that it remains here, in this place. (Maybe it isn’t. Anyway.) Perhaps I should have walled it up somewhere, safely stored for the overseeable future.