Most girls don’t know the taste of alcohol until they go away to university. Most girls in this scenario are the case study girls of a typical life. You know? Nursery for 3 years [because kindergarten people have wine cellars], Primary school for 8 years [since academy folks’ parents have brandy in a crystal bottle on the desk in their father’s study] and high school [which I have no shade for because I absolutely refuse to utter the words “secondary school”] These girls probably join boarding school for a number of reasons, some never even wanted to go to boarding school, but since the parent is the law, you gots to do what you gots to do.
“I only drink wine,” she texted. “You can call me Rosé [My keyboard has refused to add the tilde on the ‘e’ so let’s make do with old fashioned Rose, shall we?]
When I read Rose’s text, I found her snobby. Why would she just ignore all the other liquor when they did no wrong in the world but exist? What kind of discrimination was that? To say you only want one thing when there are numerous other almost similar things that can serve the same purpose. Unbelievable. See, I’m a whiskey girl. You’ve been asking all year and now you know. So her statement hit home when she said it because I felt personal. Like she had a vendetta against all other people who enjoy something else. [PS. If my dad reads this, I like Fanta Orange]
Rose got her first sip from her mom. And before you judge, the mom did not know that Rose was eyeing her drink that afternoon. “We had this habit of going out every Sunday after church. We would go to the same restaurant around the area we live in. Tulips Restaurant. Quite quaint. It had a very homely feel. The swings were my favorite part. I would wake up in the morning and jump out of bed so excited. My mom always thought I was excited about going to church. Truth is, I couldn’t wait for church to be over, so I could go and play on the swing set all afternoon.”
By the time she was in high school, she started being conscious of her body. Her breasts were growing and she needed bras now. She could no longer jump up and down when excited on Sunday mornings. “I was kinda insecure. And my mom did not talk to me about growing up. She did not explain that things would change and that boys’ eyes would linger on me when I asked them something. I had to figure shit out on my own.”
She recalls her first sip of alcohol. It was on a Sunday. Church was longer than usual and she just wanted to leave. At Tulips, she was seated on one of the swings, not really doing anything, her mind building castles on beaches and in the sky simultaneously when her mom called to her. “Rose!”
“I looked to her and you know this thing that mothers do? Where if they call you and you are not next to them in two shakes of a tail [yes, she said that] then they tear the world down until you get to them? My mom is like that. She is the kind of woman who when she utters the first syllables of your name, you run like you are being chased by wild dogs”
I laugh at that.
The mother called. Rose ran. “I want to use the restroom. Nataka ukae kwa hii meza incase chakula ikuje (sit here and wait for the food)”
“Did you hear me?”
Mother likes eye contact and verbal affirmation. “Yes mom. I heard you”
She started walking towards the bathroom but a few steps in, she turned. “And Rose?”
“Stop daydreaming at least for the five minutes I am away. Drunkards are everywhere here, and most of them have not had any lunch, and you’re a young girl. Be alert Rose. Don’t go searching for fairytales in your head and get lost in there till our food gets stolen.” Then before Rose could respond, the mom was in the bathrooms.
Now, as a creative, I can tell you right now how hard it is to stop yourself from daydreaming because sometimes you don’t even realize you are doing it. It’s like a default setting in our brains. Like telling a tortoise not to go back in its shell. It just cannot be done. And if you have someone who is able to control it… please tell them to contact me. I need to be the first to discover that anomaly.
True to her nature, Rose found herself somewhere, lost in the intricacies that her brain could conjure up. “then this waiter came up to me, with a glass of wine. I knew all the waiters at the restaurant, but his face was unfamiliar. His badge read “TEDDY” and I will never forget it. I will tell my kids this till I am old and have cataracts in my eyes.”
Teddy didn’t know her as well. Didn’t know the powerhouse of Tulips that her mother was. But he said there was an order of a glass of rosé for table 9, and he placed the glass on the table then left.
God blessed and cursed Rose with an inquisitive mind. She started asking herself why her mother was drinking strawberry quencher juice on that afternoon when she never really did like sugary things. She leaned towards it, “just to smell it. I didn’t have any plans with the glass”. But once you smell a rosé your taste buds start playing malwedhe on you. You get a tingle in your throat and your tongue? Oh, your tongue actively wants it! It calls to it. So she lifted the glass and put obliged her lips.
“I would describe that first taste as…interesting. I mean, it wasn’t sweet, but it was also not disgusting. Immediately it touched my tongue I knew it was alcohol. I don’t know how, but I just knew. THEN I felt an adrenaline rush.”
She had her first angel-devil moment at table 9.
The angel said: Gurrl, you know thas wrong
The devil said: But did you taste it though?
Angel: Uh-Uh listen. That’s yo mama’s. She gon kill youuu
Devil: Pfft! Kill you? Over strawberry juice? Gurl come on
[For some reason, this is how I pictured this conversation and I just went with it]
Eventually, the devil won, because she was young, and she needed to do this so that you could have something interesting to read today. See how the universe works?
She lifted the glass, drained it, then placed the glass on the next table. Gotta get rid of the evidence.
Her mom came back almost immediately and Rose stood up to get back to the swing set, but she was dizzy. Gravity pulled her into the seat.
“Are you sick?” her mom asked.
“No,” she said. /But I want to be/
“Okay. Cos if you are sick then we will go home right now”
She shook her head. Then paused. Should she have shaken her head or nodded? Was the grass always this green? Her fingers tingled. She was smiling. “What are you smiling about?” her mom asked, now watching her closely. “Nothing” /serious face Rose. Serious face!/
Her mom now shook her head. Food came. Some everyday waiter now. Thank heavens! But twenty minutes into their food arriving, a woman started a commotion at the bar.
“Where is he? I have paid him already and he’s gone? Where is he?” she was shouting.
Everyone in the restaurant was asking where who was. Who the fuck was this who? Her husband? Boyfriend? Payer of the bills? But something moved in Rose’s stomach, and she knew, even before the words were uttered. She knew what was happening.
“Where did he go? He said I was his last table then he finishes his shift. And you people have started this paying upfront thing so you tell me. Where is HE!”
The waiters were all there, in their crisp white shirts and tiny bowties. Everyone in the restaurant turned toward the bar. The woman was hysterical. They had stolen from her and she was having none of it. Who did they think they were?
“Mom, nimeshiba” Rose said, unable to finish her food. Confusion was floating in the air. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. Whiffs of the story suggested she had paid someone for a drink who had disappeared with her thousand bob. Rose looked at the booklet on their table, knowing what was inside. “Let’s go,” her mom said, already standing up. “This might get ugly. Twende home tu” They left.
Over the next couple of weeks, they did not go to Tulips. “I felt as if my mom knew what had happened was somehow my fault. Or at least she suspected. But she never said anything. I drank that woman’s rosé. She blamed Teddy for taking her money and not giving back her glass worth, and her change sat on table 9, while the glass that housed her wine was on the table behind me.”
“Do you feel guilty?”
“Never have, don’t think I ever will.”
Then one day, almost 2 months later, her mom comes home, looks her in the face and goes, “I was at Tulips today.” And that was it. No follow up, no nothing. Those 5 words sent a chill down her spine. Her mom wanted her to know that she knew. And that look that she gave her, that look was everything.
[Have an alcoholic experience that you want to share? Send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or a DM on Instagram (@mir_awu). Let’s live a story]