Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Ice Cream Shop

Roast beef with peppered edges, cut into thin slices on pumpernickel bread. I remember my first job by the taste of a sandwich. I was sixteen, hired for my short haircut and lack of tattoos or odd piercings. A large woman named Karen was my employer, and she paid me under-the-table, although not literally. I made deli sandwiches and swirled soft-serve ice cream.

Business was often slow -- our presence in a suburban strip mall wasn't intriguing nor obnoxious, so few found us worthy of exploration. I spent much of my time calculating how much money I'd have after paying for gas and car insurance, my only two expenditures. The rest was spent on dates with a girl from the mailbox store across the parking lot.

She was my motivation for the job, although it sounds odd to me as an adult. In retrospect, I saw her as much a companion as a competitor -- I wanted her life, not her. Suburban, scholarly and determined, she knew her path -- no questions remained. I was not as decisive. My book had no ending, and I craved the stability.

We mixed successfully, at first. A swirl cone of a relationship; my dark pessimism on one side; her light optimism on the other. But she could not support my weight, and we faded quickly under a warm summer sun.

I tried, vainly, to quickly consume the relationship before it melted around me.

A headache ensued.

I left the ice cream shop after a few months, taking a few other jobs before graduation and the changes that it brings. I look back upon it fondly, if a little weary from the experience. The money is long gone, but the taste remains.


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