My mom gave me a little magic cocoa box for my fifth birthday, made of tin, with a snap lock to keep the cocoa safe. A year later, it still refills on its own. I drink cocoa every single day, but there’s always a nice little cocoa mountain, going right up to the brim, waiting for me inside.
“That box is magic. It’s connected to my heart. It will always be full because my heart will always be full of love for you. And that’s not just regular cocoa inside, but cocoa stardust, made of love. That’s why it tastes so much better,” the pretty, blue note with my mom’s pretty handwriting inside the box said, apparently — she had to read it for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having a magic cocoa box. What normal kid wouldn’t?
But even infinite amounts of cocoa stardust can’t beat a real family.
“Mom, you’re always either working or sleeping. Or getting ready for work,” I tell her while she’s getting ready for work. “We never have time to ride the bike.”
“Like I always tell you, a family needs two jobs. That means I am one person who has to work two jobs, at least until you’re old enough to get one of your own. So, I have less time for you. Simple math. Plus, you think your teeth are going to straighten out magically by themselves? Braces cost money, honey,” she answers, pretending to rap the rhyme at the end.
“As does your bike, for that matter, especially when I have to buy a new one every couple of months when yours get stolen,” she adds and gives me a quick kiss goodbye.
“But you have lots of money, I’ve seen your wallet.”
“Just because it’s full of one-dollar bills doesn’t mean it’s a lot of money. Just wait until you start learning proper math, you’ll see.”
Some policemen came to the house today and told me my mom fell asleep behind the wheel on her way to work and won’t be coming home anymore.
The magic cocoa box is broken, it has stopped refilling on its own. The cocoa stardust decreases with each cup I drink. I think that’s the math my mom was always talking about.
No wonder everyone hates math.
I think the cocoa stardust is also just regular cocoa now, too. It’s kind of like when you drink coke out of a big plastic bottle instead of the nice little glass ones with sweat on them during the summer, it just doesn’t taste the same.
I throw the cocoa away, so the box can repair itself, restore its connection to my mom’s heart and refill on real cocoa stardust. It probably just needs some more time to locate her signal, since she’s far away now.
But I don’t even really care about the cocoa stardust. I hope her heart sends another blue note with her pretty handwriting, which I’ll be able to read on my own now, who knows, maybe even a recording with her pretty voice. All the cocoa stardust in the world can’t tell me how she is, that she’s not mad at me because I cost so much money, and that she has more days off now wherever she is. “RIP” stands for “rest in peace,” I now know.
The box stays empty and quiet. Maybe it is connected to my mom’s heart after all.
Ten years later, and the box still hasn’t managed to catch my mom’s signal. It doesn’t refill on its own. It doesn’t do anything magical. But it’s okay, magic is for kids, kids with a loving mom, to be exact. Grown-up orphans believe in math. Math and all the other exact sciences.
Math is the money that determines how full the box is.
Science is the chemistry that makes its contents feel like magic. The better the chemistry, the longer the magic lasts. I’ll admit the cocoa stardust had some sort of a special ingredient — my mom’s love or childhood altogether; either way, they both ended on the same day. But when it comes to heroin, chemistry is all there is to it.
Engineering is what gives the box the power to keep everything protected and dry, like a safe, and that’s crucial, for dampness is the kryptonite to all magic powders. Dampness and rats. And the orphanage has plenty of both.
Other than that, the box isn’t all that different from before — it’s still a substitute for love and comfort. Except now, the real thing doesn’t come home after work.
I guess if magic was real, heroin would be what’s known as black magic. Or maybe all magic fades to black if you just give it enough time.
My daughter is turning six today, and the box is not only a cocoa box once again, but a magic one at that. It has been for exactly a year. It’s a magic cocoa box and a sobriety chip at the same time.
“You know that cocoa box is magic, right? It’s connected to your grandma’s heart, which is always full of cocoa stardust, made of love for you, so the box will always stay full, too,” I told my daughter on her fifth birthday.
“So is grandma kinda like Santa then?” she asked.
“Better — Santa only works one night a year. Your grandma works every night.”
I put my daughter to sleep and I went to refill the box, but I found it already full, right to the brim. Inside, there was a pretty, blue note with a pretty handwriting I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.
I started having this dream once the cocoa box became magic again, but I always wake up before I can read the note. But that’s okay — it’s magic, not math; you’re not supposed to find the unknown.
Petar Petrov is a writer whose mom taught him it’s rude to talk about yourself when you have nothing cool to brag about. But you can follow him on Twitter @ppetrov90.
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