So here I am. It happened for me, for us. Life is good as hot chocolate. It’s an insulated life. Warm after a time, chocolaty, liquid. But we made it—we did it together.
I’m available at fine retailers throughout the tri-state region. We got that part right. The A&P, the Kroger, the Giant, the Harris Teeter. Actually, not the Teeter anymore. That was a big falling-out—you remember that. Too, too pricey. I’m hot chocolate of the people. The Teeter’s full of faux couture and soccer moms. I hate them, even though I’m not about hate. I shouldn’t say hate. I’m the working man’s hot chocolate, a proletarian. I’m on special. Especially in the winter, my season to shine. Our season.
That’s the best part of being hot chocolate: the holidays. And the children. And the snowy days. I represent warmth. I stand for goodness in the world. That drives me, knowing I have a place in this world.
I dabble now, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’ve changed. High art, foreign films, Lawrence and Eliot and Woolf. But those are sidelines. They don’t define me. They round me out. You fell asleep to Breathless, but that was OK. You stayed awake when it mattered. In the early days. When we struggled. Together. You have to take comfort knowing I appreciate the good in life. And I do. I just want to give it back.
Yes, I get confused, too. But don’t we all? Why would my success prevent that? Nobody’s perfect. Not even hot chocolate. Not even with whipped cream. Not even with a melted mint chip. Not even if that mint chip is finely grated. Oh dear God, that’s the best. Not even if it’s your birthday and maybe I was busy, unbearably busy. With the holidays. It gets busy. You know that I love the holidays. And the children. But it gets busy.
I spend many a night in the city, yes. Walking the blocks. Spilling down the avenue. That’s when the real work is done, and so those are my hours. They’re odd hours, but hot chocolate doesn’t keep regular hours. I am everywhere.
I think most people understand. Or I thought so, before this. It can be—it is—hard. To be misunderstood. Instant-mix cocoa can get in the way. They’re insincere. They aren’t authentic. But they’re hot chocolate, too. I know that. I know, in some ways, they’re hot chocolate as much as I am. They mix much more easily. Just hot water and a mug. God, how many times I’ve heard that snickered at me. Doing the real work of hot chocolate isn’t easy. I get tired. I get drunk. People drink me. I’m in those cups on the counter in Hopper’s Nighthawks. That was me. A lot of folks don’t realize that still. That was me.
Yes, of course I love our children, too. How could you ask that? I do, I do love you.
I love all hot chocolate. It’s just—there’s so much work to be done. There are so many who need. You don’t see this. You don’t come with me when I’m out there. When I’m among them.
Do you remember when I was first hot chocolate? When I decided this was who I was, who I needed to be? You stood by me then. If I were a beverage, I’d be hot chocolate, I said. No question. And you knew. How perfect would that be? we said. Half cup of sugar, third of a cup of cocoa, warmed to a boil with a dash of salt, topped off with a few cups of milk. Probably whole milk. Badass milk. I’d jump off the burner, set on medium heat; you’d grace me with, what, maybe about a teaspoon of vanilla? I’d be good, with three or four o’s, gooood hot chocolate. That year’s “it” hot chocolate. Those dreams were so urgent.
And so this is who I am now. This is where I need to be, even if it’s this difficult. We’re bigger than Teeter now. I’m bigger than Nestlé. No amount of empty instant–Swiss Miss packets can do this to us. That telltale trail of empty packets strewn across the bedroom floor is imprinted on my brain, too. Don’t you see? We’re bigger than this, too.
I know you blame me. But don’t. Swiss Miss? She can’t be blamed, either. Wrong place, right time for her. I don’t even know anymore.
I’m sorry it happened this way.
Fuck. I was in Nighthawks!
Sometimes I know it: being hot chocolate is the loneliest, strangest thing. Beverages. We all want to be them. But then, when we get our dreams, we melt. When I’m gone, what’s left? Empty mug, love. Nothing but one rich, chocolate-residued metaphor.