2 June 2002 | Vol. 2, No. 2

Ice Cream

He posed and I photographed him in our hallway on Mercer Street, so pleased by the fact that we had one. The microwave was shiny and white and built in under the counter, suspended, with bright blue numbers that kept time.

We never had radiators before and had to figure out how to turn them on and off. I wore his oversized army jackets and five-dollar hats from unbelievably convenient street vendors. We listened to children's voices from the rooftop playground outside of the bedroom window. The noise never bothered us. It made us feel clean.

I craved west coast beaches and driving over the Golden Gate, and in the beginning, when I first arrived, I would still find sand in my shoes. I missed grocery stores with wide endless aisles and full size shopping carts. I longed for gas stations and sunshine and Bob who drank coffee and always ordered a milkshake and the bartenders who taught me how to play Spades.

He bought me a warm coat for winter and sang to me on our kitchen floor before we had furniture. We ate noodles and New York bagels that didn't impress me as much different than the bagels I ate in California. He was not rich yet, he was not popular, and days came when I bought sandwiches with the only money we had left.

He picked me up in Soho whenever I got lost. He tried to save me in the middle of the night singing to me and telling me stupid one line jokes he found on Popsicle sticks or pink gum wrappers until my crying slowly began to spill out earlier and earlier in the day and he could not find a cure.

In the summer I started falling asleep on subways. I got lost once, waking up in Harlem. It's a green train. They all stop at the same place. My stomach dropped to that place it drops when I wake up from a nightmare. I asked the man in the station the way back downtown, go out, and up, and across the street.

I thought I might die for the thirty-one dollars in my pocket, crossing, up and over and down again, praying for the train to come quickly. Too young, too green to New York to know you don't get shot or stabbed just because you are in Harlem and if I tell him, he will start riding trains with me again.

He will come to collect me from my night shift even though it's late and he has work in the morning. He will tell me I need to make more money so I can take taxis instead of busses. I listen to the conversation of busses, to the children in the morning saying they don't like their teachers, and I envy the Asian girl dressed up in velvet screaming into her grandfather's suit. She can be wide open and miserable.

He will tell me to eat less ice cream and he will make gestures like my father. From the corner of my eye on the couch I can blur him into my father, standing, then pacing, and talking with his hands. It is comforting and it is dangerous. It is a poison sandwich, this place, and the space he fills in my gut is never full.

He will tell me it's okay, it's all going to be fine, "something" will happen soon. He will take me to the big chain bookstores because they remind me of home. He will find me the best-fried pork dumplings in the city.

When the car came to take me he did not beg me to stay. He sat in the windowsill with his guitar singing softly, and every song ever since is never better and always worse than everything he wrote for me all those nights I curled up in blankets on the hardwood floor watching him play too loud, too late.

About the author:

Sarah Montague currently lives in New York. Her new book You Can Be Anything From A to Z is on sale now at big, fancy bookstores. You can visit Sarah anytime on the Internet at sarahmontague.com.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 2, No. 2, where "Ice Cream" ran on June 2, 2002. List other work with these same labels: fiction, flash fiction, editors' select.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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