“This one is coffee-flavoured milk,” the waiter said, presenting the little bottle in one hand. The white label read in a light brown font: COFFEE.
“Isn’t that just coffee with milk?” I asked.
“No, no, it’s coffee-flavoured milk,” the waiter shook his head and smiled. “There’s many more flavours, if you would like to have a look. We haven’t prepared a menu yet, so you’ll have to have a look yourself.”
It was a new place. I’d spotted it while on one of my midnight walks. There used to be a hardware shop here, but then it got shut down for a few months, and this restaurant popped up in its place. “A Dairy Situation”, the sign outside said, along with a cheap graphic of a Holstein Friesian cow.
I stepped towards the refrigerator and squatted to get a good look. The waiter was right, there was quite the variety. You had the usual varieties: cocoa, strawberry, mango, orange, vanilla, pistachio, cardamom, saffron and even some strange ones like chilli, chicken, beef, wasabi, and so on.
“You make these here?” I asked.
“Right there in the back, ma'am,” the waiter nodded, and pulled out a passionfruit flavour bottle. “This is the newest one,” he said.
“I’ll have it,” I took the bottle from his hands and put it to my lips. Before I could down it, the waiter said—almost yelled—at me to stop. I asked him what’s wrong.
“There is something very important you need to know,” he nodded, “As soon as you drink it, you will return to when you were a baby. Your life, as you have lived it until now, will disappear, never to return. You will be a baby again, but the circumstances of your life will change in minute ways, culminating in a butterfly effect.”
I looked at the bottle in my hands and at the waiter.
“I’ve been here before,” I said.
“Several times,” he said, and then waved at the refrigerator. “These many times, to be exact.”
“And I’ve tried a new flavour each time?” I asked.
I contemplated the flavoured milk. “And every single time, I’ve ended up here,” I said.
“Oh, we have branches in many cities,” the waiter smiled again, but it wasn’t the same humble smile as before. Now it was a knowing smile.
I nodded. Then I flung the bottle against the glass door. The glass of the bottle shattered, and the pale yellow milk splattered across the door. I opened the refrigerator and started chucking each of the bottles at the door. The waiter watched without expression as the door was covered in different flavours of milk.
At the end, there was one flavour left. It was plain milk, without a label. Just white.
“That one’s not ready, ma'am,” the waiter said.
I opened the bottle and chugged it down. Once the bottle was empty, I slammed it on the table and wiped my mouth with the back of my wrist.
“What was this going to be?” I asked.
The waiter’s mouth opened and closed as he answered my question with a smile. Even as he spoke his words, I felt them slipping away from my mind. My vision faded, and soon, all I could hear was the sound of my own crying, and the warmth of my mother’s breast.