A woman sat in a brown cubicle, unplugged. She went to get coffee from the lunchroom. When she took out the milk from the refrigerator, the milk bottle spoke.
“You don’t want to do that just yet, darlin’,” he said. His voice was measured and it resonated in a deeply familiar way. He had no mouth or anything, she just knew the sound was emanating from him.
“Why not?” she asked.
“I’m magic, baby. Listen. You can change your life.”
“Precious thing, you. I’m all for you, sweetheart.”
It didn’t seem strange that the milk bottle was talking to her, or that there was a milk bottle at all, like in old times. She and the milk bottle must have met before, long ago when she was a little girl, or in a forgotten dream.
“This is one of those make a wish deals?” she asked.
“If you think of it that way, honey. What I’m telling you is that you can have anything you want.”
The truth was that there was so much she wanted, she’d almost stopped wanting altogether. She’d wanted to play jazz piano for a living. If the milk bottle was for real, life as she knew it could disappear and she could be in a club in the cool part of town with a rapt audience. She could sleep in and wear jeans every day.
Her thoughts transitioned to personal matters, in that she thought about how she’d never climaxed with a man, and she asked herself whether she could find herself melting into the blissful loss she’d imagined before the disappointment of the real thing. Then she felt selfish, thinking about sex and her mindless job, so she thought about the poor world, all of its wants.
She looked at the milk bottle again. Where did she know him from? The perspective in the room seemed to be shifting, so that she felt she was shrinking, or the bottle was growing, and she could climb over the rim and swim in him.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful it is that you’re trying to do this for me,” she said, beginning to feel wrenching regret. “But I think I might pass,”
There was so much she wanted to change that choosing one thing would be impossible. Anyways this wasn’t real, his offer. There was a pause in the conversation in which, she hoped, the milk bottle was coming to understand.
He said, “What about your dream?”
Vision blurred with tears, she picked him up.
“Baby, please,” he said.
But she tipped him over and poured some into her coffee, at which point the talking stopped. She set him back in the fridge with the office lunches and leftovers and closed the door.
In a moment of panic, of second-guessing, she flung open the fridge. There wasn’t even a milk bottle anymore, just a carton as always. She sipped her coffee, which had cooled, and took it back her desk. She forgot the milk bottle’s offer, the dream she hadn’t fully remembered.
Katie Rose writes out of New York, New York.