It had been four days since my father died
I exhausted all my tears for that day.
My body sapped of strength
My eyes hurt and this
throbbing pain took residence between my temples.
The only things I had consumed
In these past four days
Were red wine and Wheat Thins.
It was November and it was hot
I never ate Blizzards but today was an exception.
I studied the checkered tile
And folded and refolded my receipt
And then they came in:
He, big and tall and portly–
Like mine had been–
She, short and spindly and bespectacled–
Like I had been.
He walked with the bored disinterest of
This ice cream shop that he was obviously too familiar with
But conducted his business like a proper father
Doing his part to make her happy–
Like I had been once before.
And suddenly I was beset with a fury at
This stranger couple I’d never see again.
So much I wanted to grab her hand and
look my past in its eyes and advise her:
This stupid, overpriced,
sundae you’re about to eat.
Because in this moment, it isn’t about
Getting a sugar high for lunch.
Because one day you’ll have this memory
Some stupid, random memory about an ice cream shop
That probably won’t even be here in ten years.
But you’ll be compelled to drive by it
And pull up in the parking lot and stare it
Where this moment once had lived.
Because one time in this space
You came here with your dad.
You had a brownie sundae and you asked him for the medium
But he told you no, the kid’s size was enough
And it was
But he bought the medium anyway
‘Cause you gave him that look that all dads can’t ignore.
And you sat here together at a sticky table
He gave you his cherry–
even though cherries were his favorite part–
And he’ll check his email on his phone
While you’re busy trying to find the way
To carry the most whipped cream on your spoon to your mouth
And you won’t talk much because at seven
What do you really have to say?
But he’ll look at you anyway and smile
You’ll have chocolate on your face.
And then when you’re sitting in your car, crying
You’ll be grateful for this sundae.
Love him, love him so much for everything he’s done
And all the things he has yet to do
Tell him that every day.
Don’t let him die thinking
That it had been any other way.”
my order came up and I left
Not looking once again at them
I sat outside on the curb
Hot tears made the ice cream melt
I don’t even know how it tasted.