The inside of the ice-cream truck is a hot dark closet with syrup air that gags. We are rumbling around a New Jersey cul-de-sac and no one can catch us. My six-year-old fingers are soft worms straining to hold onto the slippery silver rod above. The floor shakes, but my bare legs do a clumsy dance to stay standing. The man in the white uniform driving looks back at me and smiles. I wonder if my big sisters can see me. The ledge of the slide-open window is too high to peek over. The tinkling bells and cries of the neighborhood children outside, the radio voices of Diana Ross and The Supremes inside cannot drown out the sound of my blood pounding: This is the bravest thing I have ever done. …baby love, my baby love / Been missing ya, miss kissing ya.

We stop so hard I must grab the bar with both hands. I bump up against the freezer with sticky red popsicles, ice-cream sandwiches, and fudge bars. I cannot wait to see the faces of the others clutching quarters in their hands, when I pop out of this ice-cream limousine. They have never been inside, like me. I will spring out in surprise.

But the only face I see is my father’s.

What is he doing here? He is never here when we buy ice-cream. He is away “on business” when we buy ice-cream, when we ride bikes, when we go to Brownies, when we have back-to-school nights. When we wake up because our mother is crying, smoking and drinking from the jug of red wine on the kitchen table. My father’s eyes scare me; he looks like a killer. I am afraid he is going to hit me. But he lunges past, at something white behind me.

 

A. Cabrera

A. Cabrera’s poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, Ravensperch, Best Travelers’ Tales 2021 Anthology, Deronda, and other journals. Their work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Award and adapted for stage by the Bay Area Word for Word Theater Company.

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