ICE CREAM HEADACHES
There are times when reality comes closer. The unsettling moment is like that tiny rock that hitchhikes in your sandals. It stops your journey if only long enough to toss the thing into oblivion. Send it back where it came from.
Today it begins with the taste of hot fudge dripping down the side of the sundae that I just spent my last dollar on. This ice cream headache is one for the record books. After about three bites, I am patting my heart and hyperventilating all the while wondering if these splurges are worth the pain and gain. I glance at the couple around the aisle.
He is up to his eyeballs in the Lexington paper. No ice cream or burgers in sight over there. She flits back and forth to the bathroom. They are killing time, at least he seems to be. She looks ready to go with her hair all in place and neutral outfit hanging like brand new clothes for sale. Her partner slumps over some article with his hair like a pile of kudzu. They look to be about my age and perhaps in as much bottled up agony as I am with this ice cream migraine now turned heart attack.
They do not speak. All you hear is the tapping of stainless steel utensils and the whir of the milkshake machines. Maybe that’s what I should have done, getting a banana smoothie instead of this hot fudge with redskin peanut chunk of sin. Bad decisions have plagued me all of my adult life.
This couple looks to be lonely together and forlorn. Truth be told, I am all of that bottled up inside. My heart is cold as this ice cream seizure I am having. I get up to walk the pressure off. Go back for more napkins.
There is a woman at the counter with three teenage girls. All of them are thin as celery sticks and tell the woman they are not hungry. The sales clerk stands still like a movie on pause. She then smoothes her uniform and sucks in her stomach. One of the girls has a camo hat on backwards. The pain in my chest and head subsides. I wonder if I had my own daughter, would she wear caps backwards or turned slightly to the side like that.
Back at my table, I see things have changed. The sundae was tossed out by a vigilant employee. A man pulls up in a non-descript car. He crosses the parking lot slowly. The couple across the way remain in a trance. Maybe the woman and I have much in common. Her husband seems so much a gargoyle, I don’t approach her or even smile her way. Now my attention is on the man outside in the brilliant late afternoon sun.
He hesitates just beside the trash bin. Makes me wonder if he has just now realized he forgot his money or locked his keys in the car. His face beams with anticipation and a gold Camry pulls up beside him. He opens the rear passenger door and sticks his head inside.
I think I know what is coming. It annoys me like a piece of gravel in my shoe whenever it happens. But there is more to it than that, so much more. I want to run and embrace that baby he lifts out of the Camry. I want to hoist her over my head with that unbridled joy. As bad as this is, I share in the love, pinching off a piece for myself like a kid snitching a tiny piece of the birthday cake icing before the party begins. Hoping nobody will notice me grinning ear to ear. The deadpan couple begins to discuss something he is pointing to in the newspaper. Everything hits me all at once, like that avalanche of ice cream and it seems as obvious as the front page headline of the New York Times.
I will find her. A quarter of a century ago, I gave my only baby up for adoption in Mississippi. My parents knew of the Catholic charity there through a friend. I was treated like a queen but this throne is an empty place for me now. A long term boyfriend and short term husband left me short- handed. We were always too busy working to make it work. Always waiting for the right moment to become parents. Now I know, you have only that window, that short time for preserving. I think of this when I can tomatoes and sauerkraut and white half runners.
The man holds the laughing baby up like when you lift a baby out of its bathwater. The mother gets out of the car not even glancing in their direction. It could be a special occasion for them albeit forced. I think it is time for me to go. If they sit down anywhere close to my table, I may embarrass myself.
This moment will fall by the wayside. This woman will lift a baby over her head someday. A trip back to Mississippi may bring me closer. There is a grandbaby in a back seat just waiting for me. I think I know how Geppeto felt. Hell, I would even hold a wooden baby just to pretend it is real.