Wild Milk

Wild Milk

after Sabrina Orah Mark 

Sherrie tells me that she’s going to start drinking wild milk – stuff that’s been allowed to roam free. She says it’ll cost more but the health benefits are worth it. Think about it like paying for extra years on your life, she tells me. There isn’t anything I can say. Sherrie’s made up her mind. Things have been decided.

My friends say I should leave her but they do not live in the city. They don’t know how hard it is to meet somebody new. 

The grocery doesn’t keep it by the rest of the milk because the smell will permeate through the plastic. Even the shelf-stable stuff is stored on a different aisle from the other shelf-stable milks. 

“You can’t drink it unless you mean it,” she says. “And you can never mix it with anything else. If you do there’s no telling what will happen.” 

“How do you know all this?” I say. 

“I read it on a blog,” she says. 

It smells like fresh cut grass and sourdough starter. Every night she downs a glass with her birth control. She says it helps balance the hormones. By mixing it with something else she meant like mixing it with coffee or chocolate powder or like, a banana. She reminds me that I don’t have to question everything she does. Soon her hair will curl perfectly. Her toilette will be cut down to just a minute or two. It’s also supposed to increase her libido. 

“You’ll thank me,” she says. “And when you’re ready you can start drinking it too.”

Her skin starts to smell like mildew and Pabst. It gets into her clothes and the bedsheets. Soon it’s seeped into my clothes too. Strangers wrinkle their noses when we pass. No one sits next to me in the break room at lunch. One day I find a box of dryer sheets left on my desk. Another day someone else leaves a pamphlet for Alcoholics Anonymous. Finally, there’s a Book of Mormon. I almost send an email to everyone in the office explaining that Sherrie has started using wild milk but in the end I don’t want to face the small talk. 

Sherrie tells me that if we ever have a girl she wants to name her after the place she was conceived and if we ever have a boy she wants to name him after a flower. She can see whole rivers of color that she’d never noticed before. A pangolin visits her in her dreams and tells her about the habits and preferences of neutrinos. They’re not as indifferent as most people think. 

One morning she pours me a glass and she tells me that I’m ready. 

“What makes you so sure?” I say. 

“Your posture. We’re all always communicating things in ways we don’t realize.” 

I gulp one swig; it’s like frozen mercury coating my throat; I feel it drop past my solar plexus. Another swallow and my wrists ache. I chug the rest of the glass and my stomach clenches. I lurch for a moment, but then everything’s calm. 

“It takes a few days,” she says. “You don’t see everything all at once.” 

I nod but I think about leaving. Later on the couch I look through my phone to see if I have any decent selfies saved. There’s an abundance of dating apps and all of them seem awful. The apartments available in my price range remind me why all my friends left the city. 

The next morning she pours me another glass and then pauses. 

“Something’s wrong,” she says. 

I look at the floor. 

“You didn’t like it?” she asks. 

“It didn’t do anything.”

“It takes time.” 

“What’s wrong with the way things are?” 

“This is the way things are.”

“But I miss the way things were.”

“You’re thinking of leaving.” The sentence starts a question but ends a revelation.

“We’re just going through a rough patch,” I say. 

She leaves the glass on the counter and walks out the door. Still barefoot; still in pajamas. 

“I can pour my own glass,” I call after her. “I can drink whatever milk I like. I don’t need your permission.” To make my point the milk on the counter goes down the drain. My stomach clenches when the last dregs drop. The pain is so bad I sit on the kitchen floor. It’s like a caged beast is gnawing on my entrails in a bid to get out. 

Sherrie finds me curled up on the linoleum. The pain has become an ache. The sun is setting. She doesn’t say anything, she just helps me into bed. 

“I’m sorry,” I say. 

“I shouldn’t have rushed things,” she says. 

“I don’t actually want to leave,” I say.

“You don’t have to drink it with me if you don’t want,” she says.

“Will it stop hurting if I don’t drink it?”

She shakes her head. “Now that you’ve had a taste the only way through is forward.”

“All right,” I say.

“You can leave if you want.”

“I want to stay.” 

She kisses me on my forehead. She comes back with another glass and puts it on the side table. I drink it and when I sleep I dream we have a daughter named Tacoma and a son named Azalea. Sherrie is blowing dandelion seeds off the stem with them. She tells the children that they’re free.

Alex Skousen has an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook Southampton. His work has previously appeared in Catapult and other places.

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