My body might be curled in my favorite blue chair in this quiet living room, but my mind is busy, awakened by the scent of the hot chocolate in the giant mug my hands are hugging. Tonight I will indulge myself in this hot-chocolate memory, though I will have to travel at least thirteen years back in time, and two countries south.
When I close my eyes, the backs of my eyelids become a sort of planetarium. No matter where my eyes turn, there are stars. The sky is deep with them. I am so dazzled by the stars I don’t notice the moon, but I know it is full because when I look down, I can see my swimsuit-clad body, and when I look around, I can see all twenty of my friends, perched with their knees by their faces in our small bark canoe. I can also see the white ripples the motor makes in the tranquil tar-colored water as we move forward.
The only part of my surroundings the moon doesn’t illuminate is the thick vegetation on the banks of the river. It is a black wall, though I know if we moved closer, turned off the engine, and sat in silence for an hour, that wall would be alive, screeching, slithering, and growling with life. Here, far from either shore, I believe the lie the darkness tells me—the jungle-covered shores are secure walls, embracing us, keeping us safe from anything which might want to harm us.
My memory’s eyes shift back to the canoe and my friends. This memory is far too pleasant to be marred by the reality of my environment. I see a blue thermos rocking perilously on a small platform at the end of the canoe, ahh….hot chocolate!
Our chaperone cuts the canoe motor off. Our voices are shrill from competing with said motor and, feeling as though we are rude intruders into the serene night, we lower our voices to a whisper. This abrupt silence allows the chaperone to get our attention and admonish us to behave, telling us next that we are free to jump into the water.
We forget about being rude to the quiet and, lugging oversized inner tubes made from tractor tires, we crawl and clamber and finally jump over the edge of the canoe into the murky depths of the water. There are too few inner tubes for us, and we have to share. Soon, someone starts a game of King of the Mountain (aka "King of the Tractor Tire").
Some of us tire of the game and swim to “quieter” inner tubes to gossip and ponder the deeper questions starlit nights bring to mind. When we get cold, or thirsty, we drift over to the canoe, and there is hot chocolate.
My body in the blue chair takes another sip. I open my eyes wide and blink, trying to decide whether I should come back to America and my dry, cozy living room or not.
Then I hear my precious son’s breathing on the baby monitor, and I decide I would like to come back to the present. Now I have a new story to tell him about when I was a teenager going to boarding school in the Amazon jungle, and how I used to float on the Orinoco River with my friends at midnight.