Dear ugly mug I painted at Paint A Dream last weekend,

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to turn out this way. Do you think I wanted this to happen? I am not that horrible of a person.

I knew you were the one right away. I chose you above all the other mugs and plates and cat figurines. How could I deny your seductive lip, your curvaceous handle, your sturdy broad base? I cleaned you, scrubbed you with the little round sponge provided by Lexi of the Paint A Dream staff. I dipped the sponge into a Dixie cup of water and gently washed you, like you were my beloved grandmother, too frail and unknowing to wash yourself. Couldn’t you tell I wanted only the best for you?

I whispered into your cavernous mug-ear, “What color would you like to be?” You said nothing. Coy. I closed my eyes and tried to dream a dream of you as your perfect painted self. I saw pink—no, peach. I saw cherry blossoms falling from a twisted tree, the petals churning in an unseen breeze. Pink and white and the palest blue. A geisha in a gold and green kimono walked along a footpath in the distance, her face turned away discretely.

With ultimate care, I selected paint colors and brushes. Your virgin surface glowed in perfect matte innocence. I picked up the fattest paintbrush and dipped its silky hairs into the peach pearlescence. The paint went on smooth; it felt good. I blew on your surface to dry the paint faster. You enjoyed that coat, didn’t you? I know you did.

I picked up a smaller paintbrush and loaded it with brown paint. The streaks didn’t look like a tree trunk right away. The brush was not quite small enough to deliver the detail I had hoped for. I knew that when I added dozens of intricate cherry blossoms, it would become obvious.

The first cherry blossom was more abstract than I had envisioned. I really did want it to be realistic and romantic. I promise. After five more increasingly abstract cherry blotches, my stomach starting churning. This was not at all what I had planned.

“That’s very pretty,” Lexi commented, motioning toward you. She smiled and moved on. You sat on the table, unsure, questioning but ultimately trusting. I wanted to believe that Lexi would not lie to me, but I knew deep down in my roiling gut that Lexi was… well, Lexi was a goddamned liar. You were not pretty. I knew it and I think you knew it. I am so sorry.

I grabbed for the tiniest paintbrush and dipped its sparse bristles in green. I’m not trying to justify this, but a geisha is way harder to paint than you realize! I am not freaking Rembrandt here. The bottom half looked halfway respectable, but when I got to the head, I might have been a little overzealous with the black paint. I swear to you I tried to fix you. I dabbed with a moistened swab, but it only smeared the black. It was at exactly this moment that Lexi proclaimed, “Five minutes until closing!”

My hands shook and my eyes burned as I carried you to the counter. Lexi smiled and said, “Pretty,” and then ripped you from my hands like the dirty lying bitch she is. “We’ll fire it for you and you can pick it up in five days.”

Today, I leave the store disheartened, lost. I carry you in an unmarked brown paper bag as though ashamed of you. You are my bottle of Boone’s Farm on a Tuesday morning; you are my controversial alternative porno. Your paper bag crackles as if to muffle your dejected weeping or maybe mine. I will take you home where you will sit in the back of my cupboard, silent and defiant, raging against your deformation. I will make it up to you. Someday I will take you out and drink coffee out of you. You will radiate heat and I will touch my lip to your lip and I will not be ashamed. You will fulfill your destiny. But first you have to wait, just for a while.

Beth Thomas