Milk by Emma Jeremy

It was easy not to like him, because of the milk.
It bled from every pore of him, thousands of tiny
waterfalls of milk. Milk-falls.

You would think that he would be known around
our town as ‘the milk man’. People can be so cruel,
but instead they just ignore him.

They get on the bus with him, stepping into puddles
that they know will stain the cuffs of their trousers.
They sit in the milk, wade through it if it gets deep.

They let him rain milk all over their children. No one
has ever suggested to him that he wear waterproofs.
No one asks him about the milk at all.

So I did. I turned to him when we were both waiting
for a bus. I asked him, do you drink the milk?
He thought I was making fun of him, of the milk.

Later that week, I followed a trail of milk through
the supermarket to find him at the checkout, buying
milk, and I realised my question had been insensitive.

As I walked home, I thought about him some more.
I saw a woman leave her house with an umbrella.
I posted a letter through his front door.

I’m sorry I asked you if you drink the milk.
I just wanted to show you that I care.

As I pushed it through the letterbox, I hoped it
wouldn’t be forgotten underneath a puddle.
Three days later, a damp letter was left for me.

That’s okay. I just don’t like to talk about
the milk.

We continued exchanging letters. I tried not to notice
the milk stains on the paper, in between every letter
of every word. I tried to forget the image of him

as a plastic bag, tied at the top, full of milk, then
squeezed, popping in stages, small fountains of milk.
Milk erupting around him like a wet ghost costume.

We met in a café, and we both ordered black coffees.
I paid. We talked about the weather, about what we
had eaten for breakfast, whether we had siblings,

and while we talked, the milk pooled around our feet,
slipping itself over the rims of our shoes and inside
where it got through our socks, to our skin,
and made us cold.