John Tang

The Problem with Hot Chocolate

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on March 6, 2012

The Problem with Hot Chocolate

There was a coffee house on Irvine St. by the name of Tart to Tart that sat in front of the Bart tracks. When I’d lose my mind in the small studio beside my home owner’s car garage, I would drive to this coffee house for coffee, depending on my purpose, whether it was for my personal gain or for school. Most times I would stop to render characters and pay attention to the clothes people wore, the clock hanging over the entrance, the students who come here with their laptops and sometimes the occasional group of older men and woman that came from a bar. This week in particular I had thesis to turn in. But I really didn’t care for it, thinking I’d tell my creative writing students tomorrow: The only thing school really taught you was how to push shit when you really didn’t want to.

The coffeehouse was filled with students, from the back to the entrance, under the dim orange lights and slow ceiling fans. There was a group of students sitting at a round table, and I thought, why don’t I practice rendering a camera shot from group to individuals. Or what about rendering that bearded man with a large, silver-rimmed headphones from Sony? Why do people tend to walk away from his table? Or eavesdrop on that conversation about Filipino men who always wore their button shirts down? She told her blonde friend they were pretentious and conceited and if they could carry mirror in public places they would: “Then I’m like, mom, I can’t date a Filipino.” There was so much to render in the coffeehouse. On a night like this, I needed a small cup of coffee but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome with unsteady hand and unfocused thought, and then deprived myself of sleep because it was already 9:30 PM.

So I ordered a glass of hot chocolate for two dollars and twenty cents. I saw the concessionaire (I say that because I didn’t believe he was a baker) used a steal pitcher and heat the milk in the barista’s steel rod. In couple of minutes the milk was steaming from the surface. He poured the whole thing into the glass, leaving a eight of room for me to sip. It was sweet and a little bitter from the dark chocolate. The warmth put me in a dreamy state as I looked for a table close to an electric outlet. Maybe I needed to practice transposing long-hand into type.

Everyone hung over their books and laptops and notepads, in little clusters like dandelions. I peered all the way to the very end where there was an old oak table, the surface beginning to fade away and all you saw were dark spots, scratches and pen-doodles of cartoon cats. There were two people sitting there. I didn’t think they were a couple until I asked if I could sit here and the girl kissed the boy on the lips slowly and rubbed his bearded chin, and said, “Go ahead. It’s alright.” She wore thick plastic frames and her hair was short under the hood of the sweater, while the boyfriend wore an orange and black San Francisco winter coat and matching baseball cap and shoes (which were canvas and orange).

I turned on my laptop, and while I waited for the screen to change from Microsoft XP into the backdrop of James Jean’s acrylic painting of a shoe maker, a heavy usage of gray and maroon, I began drinking my glass of hot chocolate. The warmth hasn’t changed since I first sipped it, nor did the bitterness changed. By the time I finished loading the beautiful desktop, I was halfway into the glass. As I tipped the glass to my lips, I could see the dense powder of dark chocolate at the bottom. I was drinking it quicker than I’d preferred. I had to ration the sweetness for the evening.

There was a girl sitting beside the wall under the framed photographs of the streets of Italy. She was Filipina according to her soft hair and the dark tone of her skin. She wore a blue-and-white striped sweater, loose-fitting, with tight jeans that caught the contour of her thighs. I remembered last week a young Caucasian joked with her, poking her with his elbow, smiling, and playing with her hair, as she seemed to enjoy it, playing along. He was with her tonight, wearing the same clothes he wore last week, a hooded sweater, athletic shorts, and a Boston, Celtics headband. His triangular nose was well-defined and had little brown dots. I had to render their relationship accurately? What gestures displayed affection? When were they able to disconnect, through their eyes—the hardest angle for me to render. More important and lastly, is it me who values their relationship or is it how each person value one another?

By then my glass of hot chocolate was down to the last quarter. I was growing tired from even trying to write the bra strap that could be seen through the Filipina’s sweater. I wondered: Should I buy a second glass so I can sit and study this couple? But that would never give me the strength to get into their minds, because for now, I’ve only been rendering their appearance in a positive light (for I believed they were having fun in light of each other’s company). Imagine all the beauty the man developed for her over the week. How he has grown used to the appearance and was now in a stage where he saw her soul, her values:

Alex met Elaine Rodriguez at Tart to Tart last week near the entrance. She was cute, darker than the usual Asian girl, but nevertheless, had the dark silk hair that flowed off her shoulders. She had neat soft cheeks that lifted her small eyes. She was reading a large textbook on psychology. Alex needed to type an essay, but his Mac laptop was running dry. He pulled out the cord from his backpack and tried to weave the cord around her, where he bumped into her little Converse red shoes.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“It’s alright,” she said. “Are you trying to plug that? Here let me help you.”

She brought the plug all the way to the electric outlet between two tables filled with students and their laptops.

“Okay, thanks.” He said. “I have a friend at SFSU who studying psychology. So, are you reading Freud’s iceberg.”

“No, I’m passed that. That’s like lower-level undergraduate.”

–I’m tired. So let me bring it to an ending we could all rejoice over good fortune: The young lovers lived happily ever after. Sadly for me, there wasn’t enough chocolate to partake watching these young lovers.


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