The scariest stories, to me, are always those where you find out that the real monster was always you. This is one of those. Spoiler alert. It was early 2000s. I was working as an intern in one of the biggest ad agencies in Uruguay. I was a junior copywriter in what was mostly a normal, regular office. A reception, lots of hallways that lead to small offices, and a cafeteria, a place that, out of all, I thought was safe for me to relax and have some casual conversation with my fellow co-workers. That is until this fateful day.
The cafeteria was my favorite place to go when I was frustrated and needed a break. It was managed by the nicest woman in the world. She was an older woman, very easy going and always happy to see you. I enjoyed making her laugh by bringing the latest cheap toy I bought at a 99 cent store or by leaving random drawing of profane stick figures in the receipts I had to sign.
I was the king of the cafeteria. All my bits would land. One day I brought a toy bow and started shooting toy arrows at the different food on display because “I was a man and I will hunt my food like one!” Instead of being reprimanded for clearly violating many health code regulations and disrupting everyone’s morning, the person with the most power in the room would celebrate my stupid endeavors with hearty applause. I became intoxicated with the unconditional approval. Reckless. Nothing could stop me. Or could it?
It could. The day started as it always had. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. My Pepsi ideas were dumb and derivative or too weird and out there for a family beverage. But I knew that no matter how frustrated I was with my job, I could always go to my safe place and recharge the self-confidence of a needy man. Only this time, there was something different, something out of place: a baby. WHAT THE FUCK IS A BABY DOING HERE! I can’t compete with a fucking baby. They barely have to try. Fucking babies being all cute and shit, taking all the attention. I don’t care if it’s her sister’s baby and she is taking care of it for the day. Babies don’t know what it’s like to work for attention. They don’t know how much work you have to put in to make people like you! But that wouldn’t stop me from working for it. This baby is not going to bring me down. Not today. Not ever. Fuck you baby.
So, in an attempt to be the most charming man alive, I took the baby bottle from the baby, and making some “waaa waaa” noises, I took it to my mouth and proceeded to drink from it. And that’s when I heard it: a shriek I will never forget, pure fear in the form of sound, a voice raptured with despair. “Noooooooooooooooooo! What have you done?!!!!!”
I immediately put the bottle down. Silence. Her familiar and welcoming eyes became unrecognizable under the strain of terror and anger. Her soft, calming voice a distant memory against the shrieking of a perturbed caregiver. “That is breast milk!” she said. And things were never the same. I entered a nightmare realm that I would never escape.
“Whose milk?” I asked, still in a daze.
What? No. That can’t be, that’s not possible. She said the baby was her sister’s. I’ve never seen this baby before.
“I had a miscarriage.”
And that’s when the nightmare started to unravel. All the signs were there. The big overcoats she always wore, and her habit of staying behind the counter. Her weeks of absence due to a mysterious illness, her previous miscarriage and the need to keep it a secret. Maybe if I wasn’t starved for attention I would have seen them. I would have stopped this moment from happening. But I didn’t. And it was too late now. She was pregnant with a baby at the same time as her sister, only she lost hers. And I drank her milk. I drank it while pretending to also be a baby.
Now it was too late. There’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing you can say. Because what do you say to someone who you drank the milk from that was supposed to be for her dead baby? Do you compliment the taste of the milk? “Mmmmm… it tastes great. Pretty good milk. I wish he could have tasted it.” If you don’t compliment it, is it also a slight? I chose the second option as I was already enough of a monster for the day. I said sorry, and I left.
A couple of months later, I got a job at another ad agency and I left the place never to return again. I wish I could say I never pretended to be a baby since then, but that would be a lie. I have done it on many occasions. I guess with time you forget the mistakes of the past, but there’s one thing that has never been the same. To this day, I can’t drink a glass of just milk. If I do, especially early in the morning when I’m alone and it’s too silent, I can still hear the words “What have you done? That is breast milk.”
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