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Hot Chocolate

Little girl in the pink coat and the white hat with the pom pom on top. With mom or maybe babysitter. Given the neighborhood, maybe foreign nanny. Holding a to-go coffee cup of what has to be (right?) hot chocolate. Skipping down the stairs and holding the cup with two hands. Singing something that's echoing off the stairwell walls.

That mom or maybe babysitter. The quick reflexes when the cup hit the deck, top down, comically sitting on the ground, lid flat. For a moment, maybe nothing catastrophic. For a moment, maybe just a cup on the ground and a lid that couldn't be drunk from again.

Hanging there, the mom or maybe babysitter's realization that disaster could be imminent in the form of the kid losing it. The kid, realizing that disaster could be imminent in the form of losing a hot chocolate. (And maybe there'd be subsequent scolding for carelessness, for four dollars spent on a hot chocolate, for not valuing precious things, as if the embarrassment wouldn't be enough). And then whoever is writing this -- however the eye can be characterized -- waiting to see if a metaphor is unfolding. Or if it has already unfolded. Or maybe it's more like: there's a hope that a metaphor unfolds, and also a hope that people in a scene can just go on being people in that scene.

What happens to the little girl after this disaster, who knows? She'll eventually drop a plate. She'll eventually drop a phone and crack the screen. Always, maybe, there will be this kind of shadow of a memory of dropping a hot chocolate on the stairs down into the subway. It's the first time she felt this kind of loss, maybe. So it's the one that sticks, the one that shapes every other kind of subsequent loss -- material or otherwise.

Or maybe alternatively, it's just other people projecting onto her dropping the hot chocolate out of her mittens, all of their disappointments. All of the ways in which they have let themselves down recently, six months ago, decades ago. The kid dropping the cup full of hot chocolate is not her loss, it's their loss, embodied. In the imagined mixture of pain and grief and embarrassment and hopelessness, they find the kernel of a feeling.

It's not about them. It's about the little girl. Antonia or Molly or Nellie or Cecily. One of the older-lady names that have started coming back into fashion as everyone searches for some bit of a purer past. Somewhere far back there, where -- even if things were no better -- at least they were farther away. So that the bad parts are muted. The dropped hot chocolates. The losses. The times the world was unjust. The lies and mistakes. The betrayals and outright murders. They were so long ago that they weren't even in this girl's future yet. They weren't in her past either. They didn't belong to her, yet. That's what is so attractive about then.

Also there was still hot chocolate in a cup, somewhere.

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