Our stationery order arrived at work today, and for some reason it contained an enormous tin of Milo – it must have been at least five litres of the stuff. Which is funny, because there’s really only one person in the office who drinks Milo (and for the record, it is not me. I haven’t developed that particular addiction. Yet). But my colleague opened the lid of the tin, and I caught a sweet whiff of scent, and without warning I was transported back to just over a year and a half ago.
I escaped my ex very early on a Sunday morning and found myself meeting the technical definition of homelessness – not to mention the definition of survivor of domestic violence. Because it was so early, and I was concerned about waking people, I messaged the one friend I knew would be up at that time of the morning, and told her what I’d done. She phoned back immediately: “Get your butt here”. So I did. Shattered, shaken, numb with the magnitude of the step I’d just taken, I showed up at her house with a suitcase full of random stuff, a pink plastic folder full of music, the beginnings of a black eye, and George Arthur, who is a small, black rag-doll teddy bear – also a survivor of domestic violence.
I don’t remember much of that day, but I do remember how shocked and dazed I was, unable to focus on anything, unable to settle, unable to remain still and yet to anaesthetised to move. I didn’t know what I wanted or needed; my friend knew, and she swept me up in practical decisiveness and I didn’t have to make a single decision all day – I simply wasn’t capable of it. She also made me a Milo.
It’s one of the few things I remember with any sense of clarity from that day: she put the warm mug in my hand with the firm instruction to drink all of it (it did help – reality penetrated the opaque numbness, just slightly) – and it was the strongest Milo I’ve ever had in my life, easily several tablespoons’ worth of crunchy chocolate powder. My blood sugar levels are probably still elevated as a direct result of that one hot mug; but I can’t off-hand think of a single thing that would have been safer, more comforting, at that time.
I’m not a huge fan of Milo and I would only drink it if I was really, really desperate for a chocolate fix. But to me it will always smell of safety, of sanctuary and the incredulous blessing of friendship, and of the knowledge of the end of captivity, and freedom’s fragile beginnings.
Not bad for three tablespoons of crushed chocolatey sugar, really. Not bad at all.