You’ve Got To Try This Shit
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Tears"
Originally featured on 01-20-2009
As part of our series "Bursting Into '09"

“I’m not trying to sell it to you. If I was, I wouldn’t be mentioning this. I don’t mean this as a warning; warnings are for medicine labels. There’s nothing to warn you about. I just want to…make sure you’re prepared. Because, I mean, I’d be pissed off if nobody mentioned this part to me before I tried it.

“For the first few months you drink it — I mean, if you drink it regularly, like every day, or a few times a week — you’ll (…I’m a little embarrassed to say it…) be taking some really really really weird craps. Like, I can’t even describe them. I don’t mean so much what it looks like — to tell you the truth, I flushed without looking every time — but I mean what it feels like. It burns your insides, like lava, not actually damaging, just hot, like you ate something spicy, like a Chinese peppercorn, and it also tickles.

“The feeling doesn’t go away after you take a dump — gets worse, in fact, itches like a bunch of spiders crawling around up there. But trust me, that’s just temporary, and once you get past that, it’s like you and the drink have been through stuff, like you’re married or something, you know? It changes you. It’s corny to say that some drink changes you, like as a person, and I don’t mean like it makes you grow a third arm or anything…

“It makes you feel a certain way. Kind of like you’re laughing all the time, except you’re not actually laughing; your skin and muscles are doing it without you. It’s not the kind of laughter that starts in your stomach. It starts in your whole body, as much inside your bones as anywhere else. That lasts all day long.

“Forgive me for saying, it’s pretty euphoric. It makes you calm, but not the kind of calm like you’re drunk or stoned, not the kind of calm that comes with baggage. It’s electricity, sort of. Balanced electricity. Like chi, it’s all natural, and it even says on the bottle that it’s alive. Like, literally, alive. Not to scare you, but stuff moves in the bottle, like crawls around, disintegrates and then reconstitutes and crawls some more. I’m not making that up. You got to try this shit. One sip.”

Tammy stood in the doorway with a backpack over one shoulder. She was unhappy. She said, “That’s all you want to say to me? You’re standing there telling me about a beverage, about some jock energy drink? Good to see you too, jerk.”

She brushed past him, bruising his chest with her shoulder, and threw her backpack on the bed. He still stood there, expecting a hug.

 

Later that night, she tried one sip. The moon was full. The wind was quiet.

The apartment smelled like laundry. Tammy could not sleep, and found an opened bottle of Tears in the fridge, next to foil-wrapped leftover pork chops.

Tears was a strange name. Dragon Tears or even Elephant Tears might have sounded more like a name for a drink, but just Tears? Something was not right about that.

One glance at the pastel colored packaging of the bottle and she realized that what she held in her hand was not an energy drink, and it was not marketed toward jocks. She wondered where he bought it; there was no way that supermarkets carried such an item, or even health food stores. He must have ordered a crate of it from some distributor over the internet. She wondered how much he paid for it.

One sip.

She was prepared to do to him what she was going to do to him. She had never planned to leave him. Yesterday when, on the spur of the moment, she walked out, she had had no plans of coming back. Now her mind was made. She would leave for good.

The liquid was dark purple. He had not been kidding. She turned the bottle around slowly, in search of a list of ingredients. Tears had no documented ingredients.

A thin ring of goop clung to the liquid’s surface and rotated. It rotated faster as she raised the container closer to her lips. Then she saw it more closely, and she could smell it. It smelled oddly salty, like…real tears, in a way. It made her salivate the way the crackle of red meat on a grill always awakened her senses on tedious summer afternoons. Her lips wrestled her tongue. She began to understand why he was addicted to it.

One sip.

Before the bottleneck could reach her lips, she nearly gagged and thrust it away from her face but held it by her hips, careful not to spill it. Her chest trembled and sped up.

It was when she saw the wormlike clump of purple muscle that had encircled the inside of the glass contract into a smaller ring, then into a ball in the center that sunk down below the surface and dissolve into a belch of expanding bubbles and light fizz. He had told her about that, but somehow she had not pictured anything quite like what she saw happening in the bottle.

She stood on the patio for two more hours before she raised the bottle from her hips to face. She had to take one sip. She had to humor him and his boyish shenanigans before she destroyed him by doing to him what she was prepared to do to him, and what she was prepared to do to him was to leave him. Without warning. Because warnings were for medicine labels. She closed her eyes and took one sip.

It tasted thick, like strawberry jam. Something happened in the back of her throat as she swallowed it. It was a similar feeling as solving a complicated math problem, but it was nowhere else in her body except the back of her throat, where the purple trickled. Decisions were being made there, ideas were hatching, and she was happy.

Tammy sat down on the steps and finished the bottle. Her stomach flexed around the purple. A breeze tickled her back. The moon was one big yellow brain that would solve all her problems, and all she had to do was let it think for her.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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