I have only ever poured one beer down the drain. It is the only one I have never finished. The only one I never care to taste again. Just like I have only ever wished one person’s death. It’s the only one I do not care for. It’s the only one still in my head.
There are four things to keep in mind when tasting beer: what it looks like, how it smells, how it tastes and the aftertaste it leaves in your mouth. If this person was a beer that would roughly translate to: how they look, how they smell, how they feel in your mouth and the aftertaste they leave on your tongue and under your skin.
I learned to taste beer when I was very young. You could say I have a refined palate of sorts, for the sorts of men – I mean, beer – that evokes bitterness and bile. And yet, give it the right name – “little girl child with a man’s hands in her pants” begins to sound like “there’s a sweet and sour edge but you’ll miss it if you don’t take your time with this one.”
How it looks. How they look. How he looks. How he looked. How he looked in the dark with his eyes fixed on me, no one else, is awake, mom’s asleep, she’s asleep, not a dream, not a dream, just wake up, little girl, just wake up, just wake up, just lie still, just lie still, till he’s done.
How it smells. How they smell. How he smells. How he smelled. How he smelled the first time he laid eyes on me. And he knew that I knew no one else would see. Only me. And him. In the day. Or so he thought. There was him and me and ten different versions of who I thought he would turn out to be. His cologne, always too much in his pre-bedtime ritual. And he always came… back to sacrifice me when the ritual was complete. The smell of stale cigarettes on his clothes, regardless of how many washes or how much cologne. That’s the thing about poison – it doesn’t live in your clothes. It lies in your skin.
How it tastes. How it feels in your mouth. How they feel in your mouth. How he feels in your mouth. How he felt in my mouth. How he felt in my mouth when he rammed a whip down my throat, crushed my body like a slave. Held me down and hoped that I wouldn’t fight back. That I wouldn’t make a sound. That I wouldn’t try escape. That I wouldn’t use my fists. That I wouldn’t find the strength I have ten years too late. That I wouldn’t wake the family. That I wouldn’t call for help. That I wouldn’t pray to God. That I wouldn’t hate him. That I wouldn’t hate him now.
The finish. The taste it leaves on your tongue. The taste they leave on your tongue. The taste he leaves on your tongue. The taste he left on my tongue. The taste he left on my tongue… has not yet gone away. It has been more days than I care to count; more pains than days. More tears than pains and not even my drink takes the pain away. And I don’t blame it. I blame him. And for the first time since that first time I don’t blame myself and I don’t blame God – which in itself is more than I could ever have hope to move past. In fact, I never thought I would be able to move, never mind move on or move forward.
But I’m here. He’s not dead and I’ve still only ever poured one beer down the drain… well, now, maybe two.