by Beth Cortez-Neavel
Mom doesnâ€™t know I know what it tastes like now. It tastes forbidden. It tastes exciting. It tastes like good dreams.
She couldnâ€™t sleep, she said. She doesnâ€™t normally drink before bedtime. She doesn’t normally drink thoseÂ funny adult-smelling drinks anyway. But, I am twelve and it tastes so smooth; the dark syrupy thing my mom put in her milk before bed yesterday. I taste it without her knowing, in the darkness that is the kitchen. I tried my hardest to keep the cabinet from squeaking – the cabinet built in under the stainless-steel countertops; new, like the house, but already scratched like someone has run sandpaper over it. The hinges squeak anyway.
I put the spoon â€“ now licked clean â€“ down. I am sitting â€œIndian-styleâ€ on the hardwood floor. I slide my messily-poured half-full glass of milk closer to me, and lift the bottle in my lap that is shaped like a tan god. I take the half-empty god and empty it even more into the glass.
I pour in more, just in case. I want good dreams too, just like her.
I mix the milk and the syrup with a shish-ka-bob stick I found on the dining room table – a misnomer – the table is actually in the kitchen. I swirl the wooden stick around and around and around. It looks like chocolate milk, almost. I sniff â€“ my nose already scrunched in preparation for a possibly â€œadult-smellingâ€ smell. Like that blue cheese stuff. Yuck. Instead, my eyebrows rise in surprise and my small freckled nose unscrunches. This is not icky at all. It is something smooth and sweet. Something with a kick in it and almost earthy.
Iâ€™m so thirsty now. My mouth waters in anticipation of the first sip. And it is good as it slides down my throat. I take another sip. And it is still good as it slides down my throat. A third sip. And it is so good as I finish it all. And I am dizzy Â – yet content and sleepy yet somehow clear and buzzing – as I pull myself up with help from the countertop, through the rest of the kitchen, through the living room, up the three stairs to the base of the tower, through the tower (I run wobbly-kneed into a coffee table), and down the hallway to the last bedroom on the right. My bedroom. My bed. I forget to turn on the light, and somehow slip between the bed covers.
I wake up in the morning, my muscles hurting, and my eyes rejecting the sunlight streaming through the half-closed drapes.