My father’s belly was a red coat of hair, and it was enormous to me as an infant. Snowcapping his mountain of a stomach was the only comfort I knew short of food. I loved the gentle rise of his inhale, his lungs like a wave, his pulse like a womb. When I cried until I rattled, he tells me, placing my stomach on his was the only thing to quiet me. He’d rub my back and whisper to me, “thatagirl” as I settled upon sleep. I do it now to Linus, and while it’s occasionally distended, my stomach has never been hairy. I lend it to the dog because I don’t have a baby yet.
I remember dad’s stack of Hershey bars; he kept them in the freezer. He had a king-sized bar, the kind I had to hold with two hands. My mother and I got thin, narrow bars. I liked to slide the label of the bar off without breaking it, then I’d take care to unfold the bar’s foil. I’d remove the bar and refold its foil, slipping it back into the label, a ghost of a bar. Simple fact is I took more pleasure in breaking the squares than the actual taste of them. I still don’t “do” chocolate. The idea of chocolate cake does nothing for me. Even ice-cream cake, I only eat the vanilla half with the crunchies; I’ll trade my chocolate for more vanilla, otherwise, my finished plate is always a melted wedge of chocolate and icing. I’ll eat chocolate-covered nuts, pretzels, strawberries—ya know, I’ll “do” fondue. But for the most part, chocolate is a garnish in my world, save for a molten cake from Bond St.; I order two. One is genuinely never enough, as long as there’s vanilla ice-cream. Oh, and I love Rocky Road; it’s the marshmallows and nuts.
Linus is on my lap while I type this. His pink paws are on my pink cashmere shoulders. We’re staring into one another’s eyes, and it’s love; I feel it up my nose. This is what I mean when I say, "I’m going home to make out with my dog." It’s not quite chocolate, but that’s not saying much. I know chocolate and dogs don’t mix, but in my little world, on this warm Sunday at my desk in front of my heater, they do. And it’s more comforting than a small child with a balloon tied around her wrist. It’s nostalgia, today. "Thatagirl."