First Sips

by Bekah Rossman

Katie is bundled in her blanket, asleep in the crib. She is a good baby, quiet; I close her door and go to the kitchen.

In the cabinet, there is vodka, gin, rum. I do not want rum, my mother’s drink, or gin, my father’s. There’s another bottle—Jim Beam. No one in my family drinks bourbon. I pour it into a Dixie cup, mix in some Sprite. I don’t know the ratio; I am a 15-year-old babysitter, not a barmaid.

God, it burns. My lips, my throat. I drink, stunned by how fiery a liquid can be, how dry; mutes the carbonation, steals the bubbles from the soda.

“Drink more, taste less,” My father told my uncle that once, in a backyard drinking contest. I swallow more. Shiver. The alcohol is deep and grassy. I can see it is easy to get lost in its blades.

Have I been here forever—or just a minute? Time is curvy after three drinks; minutes walk away. Before tonight, I’d only had beer. The whiskey is avant-garde; I am elated, wrapped in wool. I can do anything, nothing; I am brave and terrified. Drunk is confusion.

At 10:21 the doorbell rings; I know who it is, I invited him. Counted down this night. At the door with twiggy black hair, coiled short for sports. Dark brown skin, oil-colored eyes. He wears his football jersey: 32. He is our varsity quarterback, 17-years-old—so much older than me. The first time I saw him, the jersey was a magnet. I was electrified.

I open the door. He grins; it’s unnecessary. I am infatuated—have been—this whole sophomore year. I am excited he is here—I am thrilled. I want the whole world to know. I want a parade of classmates cheering outside. I want him all for myself.

I’m dizzy and swaying. The room won’t stand still.

“Are you drunk?” He asks.

“Yes,” I laugh. “I think so.”

I take the cup from the counter, drink more.

“Let’s go,” I say, tugging his arm. I am a child on Christmas morning.

We sit on the couch; he pulls me on his lap. Scoots me up. The first kiss is cloying, candy-like. It pulls the whiskey from my lips, leaves them soft, cool.

His hands move so quickly, so sure, but I’m fearless, too, I think, trying to keep up. I’m brave; I’m squirming, anxious. He unzips his jeans, turns me around. I don’t know where to put my hands, how to move my fingers.

“Is this right?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “Lay down.”

The couch’s arm is uncomfortable, scratchy, with small snags of foam sticking out. But I am drunk on Jim Beam and him; I’m drowsy. He takes off my skirt, my bra. We are naked, then—I’m surprised by the quickness of it, my head full of dust.

He is inside me, his penis a Roman Candle, a firework thrusting, exploding. The pain is colorful—cylindrical, yellows and oranges, then red.

I am brave, I think. I will not keen or cry. It hurts, but I stay beautiful, quiet; though it is so horribly startling, so quick and hard. This is a movie. This is real. I make a sound, like a baby owl; I hold my breath.

When he pulls out, I feel empty, burned, bruised. Cold and dark. Like a purple-black sky, a finale exploded on a golf course’s green, blood trickling from sulfured, pyrotechnic hands.

“I have to go,” he says, zipping his jeans, penis soft and hidden again. “It’s Friday night; there’s a party.”

He sees the blood, pink and smeary, on the couch.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks—though it doesn’t seem to matter.

“I don’t know,” I say.

I don’t know—don’t know anything. Does it matter? I am bewildered and broken and blurry; I am mistaken.

He dresses fast, the jersey back on, over his head. It’s 11:08 when I shut the door.

I go into the bathroom and vomit. My heart is racing, my eyes tear. There is amber puke in the toilet.

My face is gray and streaked. I grab a towel; I need to shower, to scrub away this new, sticky feeling. I feel shaky, sick—spent.

I want to go home, but not to my father. I want to call my mother, ask: “How do you get blood out of a couch?”

Katie is still in her blanket, quiet, asleep.

* * *
Bekah Rossman grew up on Chicago’s North Shore. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana and a JD from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Her poetry, nonfiction, and short stories appear in Montage: The University of Illinois Literary and Fine Arts Magazine and Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Static Magazine. Bekah is a member of the Chicago Writer’s Association and Creative Nonfiction/Poetry Program at UCLA and Stanford. She is currently writing her first memoir.

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