Hot Chocolate and the Scar it Left

I’ve always loved sports as a child and continue to in my adult years. I’m not sure how much potential I had – people would often tell me I had a lot – but I sure a shit knew I never wanted to live up to it. Living up to your potential is a lot of hard work and there was just so much that I could do besides working really hard just to eventually fail. Plus, not living up to my potential meant sitting on my couch at home, eating a plate of cookies and drinking a ton of milk two hours before eating dinner while I ignored my homework and lied to my parents about completing it.

If I was told I had a lot of potential in being lazy I would be a millionaire by now.

There needed to be some kind of incentive for me to exercise. If telling me “you’ll feel better if you go outside and play” was supposed to inspire me, it failed miserably. In this current moment where I am laying on the couch and playing video games while digging into a bag of chips and shoving them in my face I feel amazing so why would I disturb that?

Slurpees, ice cream and hot chocolate were the answer to that.

Food was always the greatest incentive for me to move at all. I only woke up in the morning because I would have Eggos smothered with butter and Log Cabin maple syrup. At a young age I discovered the only reason I am alive was to consume copious amounts of food in one sitting. I’m not really a natural at anything outside of looking at a Denny’s menu and being able to combine multiple dishes into one massive trough that made the cook probably want to come out of the kitchen and pour bacon grease over my head.

Which makes me think that a side of bacon grease would go great with…ANYTHING!

Soccer was a sport that I played at a young age. I’m not really sure why though. First, my parents were both multiple generations removed from our ancestors arriving in America. Second, my father is Finnish and the national sport of Finland is cutting a hole in the ice and reaching your bare hands into the water to grab a fish and eat it raw. Third, my mother is Irish and I don’t think I could start drinking at the age of five in America.

I think my parents wanted me to socialize with other children and figured competitive sports where, at that age, you are more likely to kick another player instead of the ball was a great choice. I saw the other kids running around like fools and decided the game really wasn’t for me as it promoted a healthy lifestyle where at the end of the game you didn’t get a sugary treat but orange slices. And it was always “take as many orange slices as you want!” because we all knew they were just trying to get them out of their own house, you couldn’t fool me!

Baseball had my heart at that time. Not many sports promote standing around and only moving if a ball happened to be hit close to you. It was even acceptable to not move if the ball was hit too hard. It was the perfect sport for me before I discovered golf and bowling. Plus, you got to hit a hard ball at people you didn’t like and then THEY were blamed if they didn’t catch or knockdown the ball.

I have to admit my favorite part was that this sport was played in the Summer. Are you kidding me? Sure I had to be out in the sun as an Irish kid with extremely pale skin that would burn even through a tinted window and when I sweat too much I smelled like a bottle of Heinz ketchup, but despite all of that the summer was the best part of the year as a kid. It also didn’t hurt that when the game was over – win or lose, mostly lose – we went to get ice cream! So I would stand around all day watching other kids get hurt all day – either by me or by other players – which made me smile then I got rewarded for doing NOTHING with ice cream! Then when I found out people got paid to play baseball I truly learned what love was. 162 days of standing around doing nothing and eating ice cream? That’s the fucking dream.

Although I protested as often as I could, I would still find myself on the soccer field come Fall. Soccer wasn’t fun for me – I already mentioned the orange slices – mostly because I wasn’t that fast so kicking the ball rarely happened. I think in my entire three or four year soccer experiment I kicked the ball twice and never came close to scoring a goal.

The one redeeming quality was that it was played during the fall. Despite that we were still dressed in short sleeves and shorts as a uniform which seems a little dangerous for developing immune systems. After games though we would get hot chocolate because diabetes wasn’t as rampant of a problem as it is today.

Then I swore off hot chocolate forever because of one event.

I’m not sure of the date but everything else is burned into my memory. I was sitting in the backseat of a red Ford Escort in the parking lot of a White Castle in Lynbrook, New York. I was handed a hot chocolate that I was excited for because it combined two things I loved more than anything, chocolate and whipped cream. As I went to put this tasty concoction to my mouth the lid of the cup came off and molten hot chocolate poured onto my lap. My immediate reaction was, “shit! there goes my hot chocolate” and then I started to cry as the pain was unbearable. My best friend, Joey, sat there stunned at what had happened. I was seven at the time – he was five – so neither of us knew what to do.

I was with my other friend’s mother for this trip who reacted very quickly by pulling me out of the car and wiping me down with napkins. At this same time all of Lynbrook got to see that I wore Hanes tighty-whitey underwear that may or may-not have had Ninja Turtles on them. Even at seven years old I was embarrassed at my mom’s selection of underwear for me as they were on display for anyone interested in seeing a half naked boy in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.

The worst part was watching my skin peel off my body. There wasn’t much blood but I remember having to wear a bandage on my thigh with ointment on it to help promote faster healing. After that I was like a drunk in AA where I swore off ever drinking hot chocolate again, luckily I didn’t have to go through twelve steps in order to quit.

That day may be burned into my memory forever but it doesn’t hurt as bad as being burned by hot chocolate or having to reveal to anyone, ever that I played soccer at one point in my life.

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