Coffee With Milk.
She is sitting facing me, on the other side of a small table. She is moving her saucer around in circles. She has straight dark red hair that reaches past her shoulders and is wearing an old floral dress. Her skin is pale and her arms are freckled. She has been talking since her coffee arrived. “I feel bad drinking milk in my coffee, I feel bad whenever I drink milk, I wish I was lactose intolerant, I wish I felt sick after drinking milk, but I don’t, I just feel guilty I don’t like Fonterra and feel like I shouldn’t be supporting them Did you know that they give cows abortions every year so they can keep producing milk? Why does no one talk about that? There are lots of other problems with dairy production too but I just can’t stop myself consuming it, I try to but then some yoghurt is sitting there in front of me or I am walking down to the dairy on a summer day to buy an ice cream and I just can’t enjoy coffee without milk even though I probably could if I forced myself to.” She never looks up from her sauce.
I asked her out to coffee a week ago and now we are here, having coffee and talking. She is talking, I am watching her talk. As she speaks her lips change, they get rounder, and then thinner, then rounder again, they are a light pink, no lipstick or gloss, they look soft. There are creases at the side of her mouth and a mole on her left cheek. The mole moves slightly as she speaks. When I look closely I see fine hair above her lip, not a moustache, just fine blonde hair, it is beautiful. When she stops talking I realise I will have to start talking so she will talk again. I want her to talk forever so I can watch her talk forever. I plan what I am going to say for when she stops talking. I will comfort her and tell her she shouldn’t worry. I should tell her everyone drinks milk and we need it. It is best not to think about it. She stops talking and I say. “I didn’t know that they gave cows abortions. It is difficult to think about it I can see why people don’t talk about it. You should try not to think about it. Milk is a staple, our families need milk, and our economy needs milk. You shouldn’t be feeling bad about milk, it is not your fault things are like this.” She is still looking down at her coffee her hands grab at the cup and she brings it up to her mouth. Some milk attaches itself to the hairs on her upper lip. I watch her milky hairs. Her tongue wipes the milk from the hair and as soon as it is back in between her lips which being used to form words again.
“I know I shouldn’t really care about the dairy industry, I shouldn’t put so much thought into it, I know whenever I drink milk or eat ice cream or yoghurt I shouldn’t feel guilty for the rest of the day but I still do There are so many other things to care about I have never given money to charity, I don’t have much money to give but I could stop caring about dairy and give money to charity I care about much less important things I could stop caring about one thing I care about and still care about dairy I spent forty dollars on this dress, why should I spend forty dollars on a dress, I could stop caring about dresses and care about dairy instead, I could not spend forty dollars on a dress and give that money to charity, I could sell all my dresses and give all the money to charity, I care about art and music and fashion when there are more important things to care about You can only care so much and I chose to care about things that don’t really matter instead of important things. Is dairy an important thing? Is it more important than children starving in Africa? I guess it is something that we could do something about, we can help some children in Africa but we cannot stop the whole problem, can we stop the whole dairy problem by thinking about it, probably not, I feel like a hypocrite.”
She drinks her milky coffee. This time it does not touch the hairs on her upper lip. I am looking at the hairs on her upper lip hoping to see them get coated in coffee. I am attracted to the hairs on her upper lip. Her shoulders are hunched forwards and she is looking at my cup. My cup’s contents are also milky, I didn’t think about the contents of my own cup until now. I need to say something now because she has finished talking. If she isn’t talking and I am not talking and we have finished our coffees she will leave and I might not have this opportunity again. “I don’t think you should sell your dress it looks really good on you. It suits you a lot. We need things like that to get us through the day. We need things that we enjoy, what would life be like if we didn’t have things to enjoy, would there be a point to it at all? You can’t care about everything.”
“Exactly!” she is speaking again, she is talking fast. “We cannot care about everything, there is so much information coming at you every day, every minute really we have so much to think about sometimes it is easier thinking and caring about nothing, I bet if there was a survey done it, the more separate items of media someone reads or sees or is forced upon them the less they would care about any of them, excessive information creates apathy, all this stuff creates apathy instead of being bombarded with so much information we should only be able to take in three items of media every day like for example we can read an in depth news item, listen to an album and watch a single episode of a TV show and that would be all we could do then we would want to study these items and look into them very carefully so we can completely understand them and know how they work and everything about them then the next day we can continue on our research with a related item and study and care about it just as much as the first no one would be apathetic because being apathetic would be too boring because you wouldn’t be able to turn on the TV and watch three or four hours of meaninglessness and you couldn’t open up your laptop and read about a million different things that have happened in the last twenty four hours then close it again and forget about them all.” A small drop of sweat runs down her face, in front of her ear, and down her neck. The drop continues down under the top of her dress, I imagine it running between her breasts. She is still talking but I’m not listening, I’m looking at her breasts. They are conservatively covered but I can make out their shape. It is warm inside the cafe and she is excited and sweating. More drops of sweat make their way under her top I wonder if she can feel them on her skin. Does the sweat get soaked up in her bra or does it continue to run and reach between her legs? She wipes the sweat off her neck with her hand, and I remember she is still talking so I listen again. “The next day I would watch an episode of the Ellen DeGeneres show I would care about that episode of the Ellen DeGeneres show that I watched and I would watch it four separate times and study the camera angles and the expressions on the people’s faces, I would watch and see how Ellen DeGeneres interacts with the studio audience and what reaction the audience gives to her interaction, I will ask myself, why is this edited this way, and do I think there would be some parts edited out to bring the overall message of the episode to the way the studio wants it, and does Ellen DeGeneres have complete creative control of this show, and do I think it is fair that if she does because then she would have access to directly influence how she comes across in the show, the next day I would read a biography about Ellen DeGeneres and judge how her life view affects the show, and then I would write an essay on the show about the influence of Ellen DeGeneres’ upbringing on how the show is produced. I would upload this essay to the internet for someone to read and critique as one third of their media allowance for the day and in the future someone will also study this episode of the Ellen DeGeneres show and read my essay concerning it and then write me an email concerning my essay in this email they will say that they agree with me overall but that some of my key points might have been affected by my family history because the author of this email not only watched this episode and read my essay, they also studied a critical analysis of my life and family written by an ex-boyfriend of mine who studied nothing but me for three weeks and looked at different parts of my life and then he didn’t like what he saw because I was too concerned with the Ellen DeGeneres show and he thought there were far more important things to be interested in like wars around the world but I have no idea about these wars and other issues because we are only allowed to process three pieces of media a day and I chose to watch the Ellen DeGeneres show instead of reading the news because it is much easier sometimes to care about the little things rather than the big things but in the end it shouldn’t really matter because at least I am interested in something rather than nothing, I know I shouldn’t bring up ex boyfriends now not that I’m saying what this is or when and where you are meant to censor yourself what I said wasn’t even a true story, well the boyfriend was true, but that isn’t why we broke up, but then he would have broken up with me over something like that, I think he would have, not that I spend too much time thinking of him like that it was just an example.”
She never looks directly in my eyes and I can only look at them as she looks away, her irises are golden and spotty rather than having lines. They are amazing. She is now looking at her hands which are turning the cup and saucer around and around, she continues talking, but I’m not listening to what she is saying. I’m also looking at her hands. Her nails have been bitten as far as they can be, there is some chipped pink nail polish on her left thumb but nowhere else. Her fingers are long and skinny and her knuckles are bright white. She takes her hands off the cup and presses them flat against the table as if she is trying to push it down, the muscles in her forearms tense, her arms shake, the table shakes. She sighs. I try and smile at her but she doesn’t see me and instead keeps talking.
“I guess, what I want, is, well, I just wish I could bed apathetic and happy, I’m just exhausted, so tired of thinking all the time, I want to get a pregnant, accidentally pregnant, and the father and I will stay together and we will get married then for me and the children he will just get a job, I have no idea what he will do but he will put food on the table and the morality of his employer won’t be discussed or even thought of, he’ll get friends at his work, not because they think the same way, or even talk, but just because they will see each other every day and I’ll become friends with his friends’ wives, and also become friends with the mothers of our children’s friends and eventually I will get a job too and I won’t think at all anymore, when you have children, they have to be the priority, you can’t not buy them birthday presents because you hate consumerism, you can’t feel guilty about drinking milk because your children kind of need it to grow I think, who knows what is true these days, at home we will have a TV, not a second hand small TV, we will get a giant TV, one that sits on the wall, when we come home we will sit and watch it because children need TV, every other kid at their schools will have a TV and we can’t put them at a disadvantage to them because of our ideas about television and advertising, my husband and I won’t discuss the greater meaning of these TV shows, we will just watch and enjoy them, I will stop reading books that challenge me because there will be no room for them in my life anymore I will read Bryce Courtenay and my Husband will read Lee Child, we will be good parents. I feel guilty for wanting this but I have tried and tried and now I’m just tired.” She slumps.
I put my hand under the table on her leg, I feel her skin under her dress. I know what colour it is, it is very pale. I can feel her muscle and fat. I can feel bumps and scratches. Her leg is shaking. She stops talking and looks at me for the first time. She is smiling, but her eyes look terrified.