The bowl of ice cream sits beside me. Frost lines the bowl. The spoon shifts as the mound begins to melt ever so slightly.
I take a spoonful and let it rest on my tongue.
The chocolate envelopes my every sense. My mind goes back in time.
I am nine years old. It's summertime. The heat rises from the pavement in front of the house, waves of vibrating heat, so thick I'm sure I could touch it. The buzz of junebugs fills the air.
I spend my days on my bike, or running through neighbour's yards, soaking in the sun's energy, so happy to be alive. I feel happy, healthy, and am able to forget about the sadness that rests inside my home.
My father comes home from working a hard shift. His familiar smell as he walks in the door greets me. Sweat, oil, fatigue. He works hard.
I check his pockets and pull out the slim box of gum he always seems to have. I feel like he keeps the gum there for me. Fruit-flavoured. My favourite. I take a couple of pieces, a special treat, and replace the box in his pocket. He then takes my arms and wraps them behind me, telling me he's going to take them to work with him next time. I tell him he can't because he'll get them dirty. The same joke, told time and time again, like a mantra. We never tired of it.
He goes to the basement and washes his feet, then fiddles around with odds and ends in his workshop area, avoiding the main floor where his wife, the mother of his children, sits in the overstuffed armchair, refusing to acknowledge anyone's existence, stuck in her existential mire, ignoring the life around her.
Daddy comes back upstairs after some time and asks if anyone would like some ice cream. Of course, hands go shooting up in the air, excited for this special treat.
I am doubly excited, because this means I get to go for a walk with my father, something I adore. Because it is during these walks that he talks to me about life, about his life, about what matters. And he always walks on the outside of the sidewalk, closest to the street, to keep me safe. Chivalry at its finest. I feel special.
We walk to the ice cream shop, a good 15-minute walk from the house. I have a mental list of who wants what flavour. I walk in bare feet, relishing the searing hot cement on my soles, a sort of trial of pain, as if I am trying to prove something to myself, a physical extension of what I feel in my soul.
We order the ice cream -- strawberry, vanilla (my dad always wanted vanilla, as does my husband), grape, and chocolate for me. My mother did not want any.
We carry the cones back home, taking turns licking the melting ice cream as it makes its way down the cones, laughing as we do it, knowing my brothers wouldn't be too keen to be eating a cone that had been licked to death by either of us.
We hand out the cones, and Daddy and I sit on the verandah, in the green wooden chairs, and enjoy our treats.
The chocolate flavour is rich on my tongue, and I close my eyes to remember this feeling, this time in my life, when ice cream could help heal the deepest of wounds that lie just under the surface.