It was the lipstick. I knew as she drank from me last night, the quality of this woman they called Julie. The lipstick left behind was only further proof: the cheap, drugstore kind. I was the first that our owner Carla washed, and she knew—like me—what kind of stain this was. She held me to the light, squinted at the pink smeared all round my brim. (Only classless women drink from all sides of their glass.)
The wash, at first, was the same as always: a sudsy soak, deep massage. Then it shifted. The massage turned painful. Carla took her nails to me, scratching. Not enough to show, but enough to hurt. I thought it’d never stop but, suddenly, it did. I was still stained when she set me to drip on the windowsill. Outside, a crow thudded onto the thin feeder she’d bought last week. It flared its wings and cawed, scaring finches away. Carla began to cry.
She pounded the pane, dangerously close to where I sat, and yelled at the bird, who only blinked a black eye, lifted a curved beak.
Others flew to join it. Soon, the feeder wasn’t big enough and they took turns on top while others hopped in the yard beneath, scavenging anything they could find, which was everything. Absolutely everything. There was nothing the finches could do but watch. Carla watched, too.
The dinner was awful. In all my years with Carla and Matthew, I’ve never seen a worse. Julie laughed too hard, pink lips spread tight across too many teeth. And she drank too much—I should know. Furtive sips, but Carla knew. She knew Julie was drunk and still she offered her more. Kept pouring the wine until Julie’s hands rested too close to Matthew’s above the table and I saw their legs pressed too tightly beneath. Julie’s foot slipping from its high-heeled shoe, bare toes tickling under Matthew’s pants; Matthew not pulling away. I watched as Julie held me near her lips, foul breath filling my bowl until I didn’t know how she could stand to drink the damaged wine inside. Cheap lipstick smearing, always, against me.
The crows’ caws rose against each other. Carla left another glass bobbing in its bath and went outside with a pellet gun. I’d never seen her like this before. She fired at the crows on top of the feeder—a horrible shot. They didn’t even blink and who knows where that pellet and the one after it went. The third went into the side of the feeder. Seed exploded everywhere. The crows went wild. An absolute frenzy. Even the finches tried to get in, and I saw one stumble away bloody. Crows’ cruel beaks pecking everything, even each other.
Carla came in swearing. She didn’t even glance at the window. Just bent over the sink and dunked each of my friends one-by-one into the suds, not pausing to massage them. When she was finished and they lined, sparkling, across the drying mat, she yanked the drain plug from the sink and watched the water swirl, forgetting all about me. I should have known then what was about to happen, but I didn’t. Dishes have been left forgotten before. I should know. I hang by my stem above the sink every day. I know dishes get overlooked, the sink refilled with exasperation.
But it didn’t work that way. She looked up and saw me, the bloody bird battle through the pane behind, the stains from that awful woman’s lips marring all sides of my brim. And she couldn’t take it. The way she lifted me, I thought she would run hot water into my bowl, use the suds trapped inside the sponge to work away my stains.
Instead, she drew me back by her ear and hurled me into the empty sink.
How to describe that moment in space, when I was neither held nor falling. Free, perhaps, like those crows when all the seed was gone and they lifted black wings to the sky. Or like Julie when she stumbled last night, drunk, missing the stair between dining room and den. I hit the still-wet sink and it hurt, pieces of me flying every direction, but it was beautiful, too, the many things I saw at once. The many views and angles as the pieces that were still me scattered. The gentle slope of Carla’s ear, looked on from above. The underside of the microwave, near the sink on the counter. A spider, small as sand, crafting its web between refrigerator and wall. I saw all these things at once and I cannot explain to you how it felt. Seeing the world, all of it, for the first time.
Before she left, Carla set my stem—the only thing not broken—on the wooden table where Julie sat last night. From here, I see pieces of myself blinking in the light that falls through the window. I am in the carpet and on the counter, inside the sink and on the sill. My many pieces watch as Carla walks upstairs. We listen as drawers slam open and shut. We are still here when she returns, when she carries the bag that she has packed to the car outside. We will be here still when Matthew returns, when he sits at the bench to remove his shoes. We will be waiting when he walks into the kitchen. We will cut him and his blood will be on us. His curses. But we are not afraid. Though we may soon be swept away, we are stronger than we knew.