The car stops in front of the worn fence,
headlights reaching for the little blue building
that waits ahead. A sign flickers in the
faint light of the window, the neon blue and red
of ‘OPEN’ dancing on a wooden ice cream cone
planted outside. I recognize the writing in the dark,
familiar from all the years,
but the cursive is beginning to fade.
“Come on, they’re closing soon,” are my mother’s words,
and they loosen us from our seats. We leave the car,
the humid air of the night hitting us, and my brothers
and sisters race up the stairs. I look back at my mother,
know before it happens, and force myself to walk
as I hear her start to yell. They don’t slow down,
only move quicker to the door, and then it’s just us.
“They never listen; don’t know why I try anymore,”
she tells me, but I don’t feel pity, am not sympathetic.
I watch her reach the door, see her hand on the knob,
her finger bare of the wedding ring my father gave her
fifteen years before she threw it all away—before
she threw all of us away.
Once inside, we pick our cones and only glance
at the flavors—we already know what we want.
We’ve known for years.
My mother pays, and ushers us outside
where we sit in silence, licking our ice cream.
It’s cold, but the hot air of the night plays with it,
forces the cream to run, and we try to catch
the drips with our tongues, to hold them back.
But I see it start to roll down the edges of the cone,
run down my hand. I try to wipe it off,
but it’s sticky, and the feeling won’t go away.
“Use some napkins,” my mother says,
but they don’t help. It’s melting.