Tasting Chocolate This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Moonlightbouncing from frozen puddles in southern clay, a clearing in the woods where allthe modern-day lumberjacks had long since gone home for the night to celebrate intheir own way. Tractors had pushed steep cliffs of dirt against skinny cedartrees. Trees that were maybe ten inches from being hacked down when a developermapped out an area for the runoff impoundment pond needed for the construction ofthe new housing development next to my house.

It was New Year's Eve, andwe were lighting fireworks.

Twelve shells for 12 months of the year, oneevery 10 minutes as our pupils dilated and fingers crossed, mentally breathless,begging, Please, don't let this one be a dud.

Four of 12 months sputteredand died in the tube. One exploded in my arms. It kicked like a rifle. I wasprotected from the fire by the heavy cardboard cannon, so I shook my head free ofthe ringing sound that always seemed to follow near catastrophe and waitedanother decade of minutes.

I lit the grand finale of the night, FlamingPetals, wrapped in a cadre of colorful tissue paper just as my watch's silverhands pointed at the hour with moonlit fingers.

Midnight. Happy New Year,everyone.

Bang. Yellow streaks of sulfur, streams of orange and flashes ofred flickering from above, bouncing off the cedar trees and the red clay thatsucked at our shoes.

The sky was on fire, and I was the arson, runningwith my box of matches clutched in a numb hand, a blaze of glory under a flamingfirmament, looking up, inhaling the fumes, not caring that it stung my lungs as Igasped for air, blowing steamy smoke from my mouth as I watched the foundationsof the world above crack and fall shaking down in the beautiful chaos I hadcreated.

It was then that I tasted chocolate for the first time. I knewyou were somewhere.

Sixth grade. Four years earlier. The second day ofschool.

The teacher passed out a pop quiz, seven questions, 28 possibleanswers. Said it wasn't for a grade, but if we got more than four right it wouldcount for extra credit.

Question one: Which of the following provides thesame sensation as the emotion love?

Answers. A) grapes B) lasagna C)chocolate D) peppermint.

I circled A) grapes with my number-two Sanfordpencil. She said we had to use them, even though I'd never seen anything butnumber-two pencils on the shelves at Staples.

The answer was chocolate.No extra credit.

Time passes. Five years after the quiz, the summerafter Flaming Petals charred the sky and drowned the stars in light.

I'mlooking into your eyes. They won a contest, out of 25 pairs, for being the mostbeautiful, on a school trip through China. You told me that. They touch myface.

Cold air, cold as New Year's Eve. Lounge. Red sofas that you coulddrown in unless you had me there to help you breathe. You are wearing blue shortsand a red sweatshirt. It's not my sweatshirt, you say. It's Nicole's.

Idon't mind.

A nameless movie plays on a television screen in front of us.Several couples flail awkwardly on couches just out of our view as singles sit onthe floor and giggle at the funny parts, glancing occasionally back at thecouches, distractedly wishing that they had someone to keep themafloat.

You blink, slowly. You keep me warm. I brush your legs. You mustbe freezing, I say, but your skin is warmer than my hands. You shake your head,smiling, soft hair brushing my face. I didn't realize I was so close to you. Idon't mind.

I'm allergic to chocolate, you told me the day we met. Makingconversation. It makes me sleepy and sick.

I kiss you. Your lips aregentle and move against mine to the fast-paced rhythm played out from the beatbox in my chest. And you said you couldn't dance.

My arms are around you,somehow. I'm floating in a red sea, surrounded by cold, kissing those perfectlips that taste of chocolate.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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