“I don't drink coffee.”
“No hot drinks, thank you.”
I've had this conversation a hundred times and each time I gave little thought to why I didn't like hot drinks. I just wanted to change the subject quickly.
Most nights during my brief college experience were spent hanging out with my books and friends in a Waffle House. In order to survive the late night, I ordered a cup of freshly brewed java. My first sip sent a wave a nausea straight to my gut.
“It's an acquired taste, sugar,” offered the waitress.
I didn't want to look like a baby in front of my friends so I tried to get more of it down. Each taste making me more uncomfortable than the last. I decided I just wasn't a "coffee person" and never looked back.
Years later, I had a similar experience making hot cocoa on a holiday night with my daughter. I bought fancy mugs, chocolate covered peppermint sticks, extra marshmallows...the works!
We settled down with popcorn and our drinks to watch a movie together. I let my drink cool before tasting it. No sooner did it pass my lips than I was trying not to vomit. I knew deep inside this was psychological, but I shoved it down in my normal fashion of problem-solving.
This past summer, I had my deviated septum corrected. One of my closest friends, Screw, was with me in the surgery recovery room. Coming out of anesthesia, I was pretty cuckoo. We laughed, made jokes at my expense, made the nurses uncomfortable and took pictures I wouldn't remember taking.
Sitting in the passenger seat of my car at the pharmacy post-surgery, Screw asked if I'd like some tea or coffee to help soothe my sore throat (from the breathing tube used in surgery). As nonchalantly as anyone has ever spoken, I answered her, “I don't drink that shit. Someone drugged me once.”
I was high as hell so I have no idea what the expression on her face was, but she didn't say anything before going inside to pick up my prescriptions.
The rest of my afternoon went by in a haze. I was hoping she wouldn't probe me about my weird admission. We laid in my bed together while she perused Craigslist Missed Connections, showing me random dick pics. I napped in and out. She fed me french fries. Another friend came by.
It wasn't until a few days after my surgery, when I'd stopped taking narcotics, that the fog lifted and I started to process what I'd said aloud for the first time ever. Something I'd known in my heart for 25-ish years. I was mortified that it was kind-of-sort-of out in the open now.
When I was a kid growing up in metro-Phoenix, I spent time at a neighbor's house. He was an older, single man. He was known for being very generous. He had a swimming pool! There were always copious amounts of sodas and snacks he loved to share. And most of all, he wanted to give me attention.
All the neighborhood girls loved to hang out at his house. I was a pretty naive little girl with a so-far easy childhood and thought he was just a grandpa-type who wanted to share his stuff with all of us.
I didn't think anything suspicious of his multiple cork-boards with polaroid pictures of other little blond girls. There had to be at least 100 photos tacked up. And I'd heard rumors from other girls around about him getting weird with them but I only knew him to be kind, so I brushed it off.
Even the girl who swore she'd bashed him in the face with a frying pan for touching her didn't raise red flags. And there were never ever any boys allowed over with us.
I've always been known for my amazing memory. But the fuzziness of this day scares me. In the years since this day, I've pieced parts together but I'll never know exactly what happened to me.
It was winter but still not cold out. Tom had a fireplace. To impress me and the other little girl I was playing with, he lit a fire and was throwing color changer packets on the logs. He was also busy photographing some art.
I remember being fascinated with his camera. He let me snap a few shots. I'd only ever seen the Polaroid camera out at his house before this.
He offered us hot chocolate and made two mugs for us while we continued to poke at the fire. I remember bitterness and thinking it was just too warm for a fire and hot drinks.
My next recollection comes back strong from time to time. And it never fails to bring sadness and anger.
I'm laying in a bed in Tom's house off the den where we sat by the fire. I'd never been in this room. There's nothing but a bed. The kind of bed with shelf for a headboard. I looked over to see my friend waking up, too.
We're under the sheets and it's bright as hell. I grabbed a tabloid magazine from the headboard. I can still see Princess Diana and Fergie on the cover. My friend and I are both clothed but so tired and confused why we suddenly took a nap at Tom's house.
I get her up to leave and notice his camera and tripod were now moved to the room we had been sleeping in.
I never went back there again and my friend never brought it up or questioned what happened.
These bits and pieces of memories would show up during times of great stress for me. Always unwelcomed, always ignored. Parts are too clear to keep ignoring it or telling myself I'm mistaken.
As an adult, I had two very hard pregnancies and when I was 31, I had a hysterectomy with a complete pelvic floor reconstruction. My surgeon insinuated childbirth wasn't the cause of all my problems. She asked me if anything else had happened to me, but I wasn't ready to face these demons yet.
Three days after my nose job, I had to tell someone what I'd finally faced. I sat down with my husband of 15 years and let it all out in a snotty, squeaky mess of a conversation.
I'm not sure why I was so embarrassed to admit I'd been taken advantage of. I was eight or nine years old! I was defenseless and innocent.
Even though I ignored my parents' orders to stay away from Tom's house, I'm still a victim. I've always considered myself too smart to let dumb shit happen to me. But I pretended this never happened so it didn't count against me.
In the few months since this revelation, I've only told my husband and my closest friend. I'm still struggling emotionally and trying to make sense of this. It puts so much of my personality into question. And of course, I'm planning to seek counseling.
But I plan to never give hot drinks another shot. So stop asking.