Cup of Stars

Francisco Martínezcuello

Remember when you visited the Houston Space Center in 1999? My fascination with the moon, planets, and stars, and my love for coffee inspired you to purchase a mug from the gift store. Francisco was too long of a name to fit on the mug so you settled for Frank. Around the same time, I was in a Ugandan village for work, and bought you a mahogany elephant handcrafted by a man in a tattered shirt with the Puma logo. Elephants were your favorite animal and I accepted the fact that I wasn’t as majestic as them. Before packaging the mug, you drank coffee from it, then applied red lipstick and marked the rim with a kiss. I drank out of that cup every morning just so I could drink with you, consume your memory.


I remember a long night in Africa when I called you during the midnight shift before you went to class. I could see the night sky through the window and it was the first time I noticed the Milky Way and felt the distance between us like the galaxy feels the gravity of the black hole at its center. I feared a love with that magnitude and believed I wasn’t worth waiting three years for, so I broke up with you under the weight of those same stars.     


The mug never faded. The Earth was still a perfect pale blue with a NASA rocket orbiting, moon and stars in their appropriate spaces, my name hovering over the stars. It took me years to see the metaphor.


Tears dripped into the mug when I was unemployed and couldn’t pay the mortgage. I poured out the salted coffee and took a picture, and sent you a text to prove the ceramic lasted all those seasons. You were amazed and asked me if there was anything I needed. Your red lipstick stain jumped through the fabric of space and time.  


The coffee water boiled the other morning. I didn’t grab the mug from the handle. It slipped from my fingers and hit the ground. The shattered ceramic pieces scattered on the floor like stars across the night sky. I am so sorry. I cannot drink coffee with you anymore.   




Francisco Martínezcuello was born in Santo Domingo, República Dominicana and raised in Long Island, New York. He has been writing short stories and journaling since he was a teenager. His passion for literature and writing continued throughout his 20 years of Marine Corps service and helped him understand the impact of war on our nation’s veterans. He's a 2017 Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellow and a member of So Say We All. Publications include: Incoming (forthcoming), The War Horse, Beautiful Things – River Teeth, Collateral Journal, and the Dominican Writers Association. Learn more