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2011/03/31 / tocovava

best before date

This packet of hot chocolate mix, stolen from a hotel mini-bar, was smuggled from Oslo to the States in a suitcase. The suitcase has been discarded, and long forgotten. The hot chocolate mix moved house four times (Providence to Union Pier to Michigan City, then to Benton Harbor) always finding the way back into the kitchen, set near the stove in a bowl among sugar sacks, tea bags, and toothpicks. Today, this late winter day I woke up to snow, again. This winter will never end. The house is freezing. Space heaters do not work as well as they did a few months ago when the cold came, body having worked up a tolerance. I have been disappointed with cups of coffee trying to hold off the cold, so today I decided to drink the hot chocolate from Oslo. As if somehow the dried powder would rotate and twinkle, a shear eddie caused by opening the thing, whisking me to warmer days. There was no reason for such optimism, or foolishness. I could not recall the reason why I thought the mix was special, could not recall the taste or texture, but thinking that it was probably watery—it was just this mix and water, no cream no milk, probably the Swiss Miss of Norway. The taste of this mix, however special it might have been, however enjoyable it was in Oslo in 1997, the taste of that memory has sunk into my mind, disappeared, like a marshmallow melted into a cup of hot chocolate. Maybe I smuggled home the mix because, at that time,1997, I was still holding onto fond memories of sharing hot chocolate with an ex-girlfriend at a ski resort. And maybe (perhaps the thought went years ago, although I cannot recall) if I opened the packet she would come sliding down on a trail of dried brown powder? But that was a long time ago, and I haven’t cared for her years. If that was the impetus, it no longer exists. As if it was even a possibility years ago. An ex-girlfriend skiing out of a package of dried hot chocolate mix? Maybe I brought home the mix because I enjoyed a cup of it after taking an afternoon stroll around the train station in Oslo – a cold December stroll, warmed by being in a faraway city, Nordic and exotic, and familiar, like a cosmopolitan Michigan. Would the dried chocolate and the boiling water pave out a street for me to step along, leading back to that cold December stroll around the train station in Oslo? What was so special about that afternoon anyway? Besides feeling at home so far away from home? Noticing people standing around the long cement steps in the main square, the weird vowels on the side of buildings, the bright faces over scarves, the sun setting in the afternoon, a soft snow falling through the sun, snow hanging like laundry over the streets? I really have no idea why I held onto the mix for so long. Romance of youth is poisonous and mysterious, which is why it tempts us. Poison or not, probably held onto the packet because I simply liked the Norwegian writing. Writing which seemingly stuck to my hand as I touched the packet, covered as it was with grease from hundreds of unsatisfying, similar meals cooked in cramped kitchens in Michigan and Indiana. It was osmosis that I wanted. Or no, a submersion into something else, somewhere else. Not this cold Michigan kitchen, alone. But this kitchen was a somewhat larger kitchen than those other kitchens in those other cities, rentals all. This kitchen is mine, I own it, debt free. That is something isn’t it? Completely different from those times of 1997. Now, March 2011, I poured boiling water on the dried powder. No magical potion, no phantoms rose up from the mug. And that is just as well. Now is not so bad, really, not for me, at least. Although, just now, the ancient mix made me sick to my stomach, and stuck there like a wad of cardboard, as if I chewed down and swallowed a photograph. The stomachache was my fault, of course. It wasn’t the memories that were poisonous it was the rotten powder. The bestforutgangenav was November 2000.

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