I. On Flesh
I’m told I have milky skin. But comparing someone’s skin to food is dehumanizing and all around overdone. I don’t have milky skin. I have white skin, blotching from blood beneath the surface and exposing green and purple veins. My arms are covered in bumps from keratosis pilaris. My face looks free of blemishes from afar, but up close, it’s covered in blackheads. I can’t think of any food that could properly capture the essence of my skin. Whatever it is, milk isn’t it.
I walked back from the Kansai Super with a loaf of thick cut bread, strawberry jam, and two quarter gallons of milk. I walked that path every morning: turn left at the gate, walk straight for 500 feet, turn left. I don’t know why I always forgot something I needed to go about my day, but I did, and I found myself at the Kansai Super at ten in the morning after class.
Japanese milk comes differently than it does in America. You have your choice of glass bottles and quarter gallons, nothing bigger. Gabriel laughed at me for buying milk every other day, laughed at me and egged me on when I downed half the quarter gallon in five seconds. It was the first time I heard him laugh, two weeks into our study abroad trip. I missed the gallons and gallons of milks of various fats lining my local Walgreens’ refrigerated section.
III. Small lights in a massive void
Cute Alert: Bartender Pours Shot of Milk for Stray Cat
IV. That’s French!
I was at my girlfriend’s house. We felt like such adults, cooking dinner with her parents and sisters away. We made pasta.
If this were by someone else, maybe I’d have been cooking spaghetti. But I wasn’t. My girlfriend was cooking rigatoni to eat with some béchamel sauce. It’s just a basic white sauce, but béchamel sounded so much fancier. I poured the milk into the pan and waited for it to start bubbling. I wonder when she slipped the drugs in. Probably when I had my back turned, looking in the drawer for a pair of forks.
I woke up after dinner—when did I fall asleep?—and she was above me in the dark. Her long hair tumbled into my mouth when I opened it, but no sound came out. Her body moved downward, slowly. My body acquiesced as my eyes slipped shut again.
Lait. Béchamel. Râpé.
I watched as a young couple and their children browsed the office supplies section of Barnes and Noble. It was decked out for Easter; books for kids about Jesus Christ lined up next to the wreaths with pastel plastic eggs glued to them. It smelled like paper and coffee and cookie dough from the adjacent café. One of the children was in a stroller rolled by the father, the probably-three-years-old daughter stomping around them. She wandered around aimlessly, jumping every few seconds. She eventually bumped into my knee and stared up at me with wide eyes.
“Ashtonne!” her mother harshly whispered (I took liberties with her name). The mother was wearing a Kanken backpack, a Nordic-patterned sweater, gray leggings, and aqua sneakers. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail. Her thin and scruffy husband patted his thighs, beckoning Ashtonne to come back. After staring at me for a solid five more seconds, she toddled away, shoving her hands in the baby’s stroller. The baby’s bottle of milk fell to the ground, but she didn’t cry.
God, I wish I were that strong.
The doctor pointed out where I should have scars, one of them in the same position as the Lance of Longinus in Christ’s side. I imagined that lance as a laparoscope, my surgeon hammering me into place before he extracted my holy, stone-filled gallbladder. I wouldn’t die a martyr, but I’d look damn cool.
I sat on the edge of our guest room bed, unable to go up the steps to my own room. I wanted milk and cookies, but I refused to drink milk. The residual anesthesia was making me vomit like I had never vomited in my life, and the last thing I wanted to do was vomit milk. Just the thought made my stomach lurch, and I was no longer hungry. The incision on my belly button started to ache, but Christ didn’t ache there, because he got to keep his internal organs.
VII. Ethically Speaking
I solicited sex from my vegan friend in November. I had more than one friend who was vegan, but she was The Vegan Friend. She had long dark hair and studied astrology when she wasn’t making coffee. She added “ethically” in front of “plant-based” in her Twitter profile, as if to make those who aren’t plant-based feel guilty. I considered this while mystery meat digested. She showed me pictures of milk before it’s processed and bleached, filled with pus and blood dyeing it a pink-brown.
Bipolar depression did all sorts of things to me in the past, but this was my first time soliciting sex from a friend, especially someone on the Best Friend tier. The sexual side effects of bipolar depression can be snide little bitches. She told me that she wasn’t feeling up to it at the moment, that she had too much going on. I didn’t read too far into it and masturbated instead.
sorry, I texted her a week later, i was having a manic episode lol. “Lol” softened the blow, if only a little.
oh nooo :( don’t worry about it love
There was no right or wrong thing to say, so I accepted it. My other friend invited me to a metal concert. I didn’t tell her about it.
VIII. Body and Blood
“Are you still drinking that low-fat milk?” my father asked as he edited his grocery list for the week. His gray hair had thinned out even more.
My brain jumped forward ten steps. I hadn’t been drinking the 2% milk in the fridge because it expired last week. My mother told me to smell it, see if it was really expired. I couldn’t tell. She told me to drink it.
“It’s old,” I said with no context.
“Because,” he started, completely disregarding my comment, “the jug in the refrigerator is still half full.”
I looked in the fridge to confirm this. Next to a gallon of whole milk was my 2% milk, neglected. I found myself considering the gallons of milk I’d drank in my entire life. It made me feel sick to my stomach, as if I had consumed all those gallons at once.
“Get half a gallon this week instead.”
Melanie Czerwinski is a graduate of the University of Delaware. Her work has been published by The Sucarnochee Review, Dark Ink Press, From Whispers To Roars, and others.