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I can still remember my first taste of coffee. Barely eighteen, with a virgin tongue that had only been pierced once (at your insistence) and never with the taste of bitter.
I can still remember waiting in line for that coffee, with you. I wore another short skirt (at your insistence) and you wore your usual condescending smirk. (The same one you wore when you coaxed me to part with my virginity, you know the one.)
I remember the skirt because it was cold that day. And it’s hard to forget that smirk.
You took your coffee black and so I ordered the same in a quiet little voice, not quite looking up. I knew you would be looking at me with that face, the face you always had when I did something of my own free will. Sort of a mix of surprise and puzzlement. But always worn with the smirk.
“What are you doing, babe?" The question. Your voice gentle and rich as you said it.
“I-I wanted to try it." My voice felt so tiny next to yours, meaningless.
“It’s pretty strong."
“I can handle it."
And you just laughed.
I still didn’t quite look up as I paid. For both of ours this time. Usually, I just paid for yours. (At your insistence. Always at your insistence.)
When it was ready, I hesitantly took it from the barista’s hands. It felt warm and weighty in my hands. A cup full of bitter. I was used to cups of coffee, I always carried yours for you. But this one felt different. This one was mine. The warm scent of it steamed up and dissipated, spreading through the shop. One more cup in a million orders.
I wanted to hold still and savor the moment. My first coffee. But you were already starting to lead me away to a table.
“C’mon, babe. Let’s go." Rich, commanding.
“Okay, okay. I’m coming." Obedient, meek.
We always did what you wanted. (At your insistence)
We sat down. I had to pull out my own chair because you never did. Too above it I guess, but I was used to that. I sat perfectly still while you started to drink your coffee, glancing over at me as I just held my cup.
“You gonna drink it, or what?"
I was just smelling it, breathing in the rich, warm aroma. I had been told coffee was quite bitter, but I was having a hard time believing. How could something that smelled so beautiful have such an ugly taste?
I looked over at you as you sipped away with your smirk and stared at other girls as they passed by the coffee shop’s gleaming windows, only occasionally glancing at me, even though I was right there. And I was yours.
I watched the smooth tabletop as I took the sip. I heard your laugh echo in my ears as the hot, burning bitter flooded my mouth.
The tears burned behind my eyes but didn’t surface. They were mostly from surprise, the shock of the bitter taste of coffee burning my tongue for the first time. The rest were just the usual tears that came with every time you laughed at me or knew better than me or said ‘I told you so’
The tears that were there all the time.
Bitter....So, so bitter...
I sat there and swallowed down the ugly taste. I glanced over at you. Your grin was smug, the laughter still in your eyes as you looked down your nose at me. The condescending laughter.
“How is it, babe?” It’s in your voice, too. In every word you said to me. The laughter. The mocking.
I’m silent for a second, still trying to stomach it all. The ugly taste of the coffee, the ugly taste of your smile, the ugly taste of tears that can never be shed and never will.
“I-It’s not so bad. I can handle it.”
And I start to take another sip.