I have the evening off. Fred is in the living room, his headphones on, leading the telephone workshop and there is still some light left in the day, though it is cool, not a pure summer night, but an evening with just enough summer in it to call me outdoors, to leave the dishes behind and just walk out into the evening.
I have always loved to do this in summer, to wander into town after dinner when it’s warm and still light, but this summer it became almost an addiction.
Tonight I walk more quickly than usual, hoping to get to Taco Juan’s before it closes, which it does whenever the string of customers dries up which could be early or late. But if I can get there on time I can get an ice-cream. I don’t even really want an ice cream tonight, but I want the goal and because it’s been an integral part of so many evenings in the past. There is something about the cone that rounds out the stroll, and so I rush along, aware that I am missing half the joy of my walk because I am not pausing to look in shop windows, I am not savoring the air, not taking it all in. I am rushing.
I see a light up ahead at Taco Juan’s that gives me hope and as I approach I see the heavy manager/owner guy sitting outside on a bench. He has grey curly hair and glasses. You can still see the youth in his face, but I don’t know his name and have never seen him smile.
“Thanks for still being open,” I say, hoping to open some kind of friendliness with him. “Don’t be so sure,” he says, so that my ice-cream anxiety returns and I worry that though the door is open and all the lights are on, the person behind the counter might still turn me away.
She’s a nice woman behind the counter. She appeared towards the end of the summer, not one of the kids, older, motherly, warm. Her hair is bound back with a scarf. A small boy ahead of me asks for Caramel Cream and as she goes to scoop it for him she asks him if he likes that flavor and solemnly he tells her yes.
I get my Killer Chocolate scoop and go back out into the evening. Now I can move slowly. I feel the warmth and familiarity of this street, this small piece of town. There are not many people out, and I follow my usual path off on a sidestreet to Family, a shabby building with a front porch. I wander in. Family is just a nice place to go. You can look at the books being given away, inspect the dishes to see if something is so pretty you have to have it. Tonight no one is sitting on the plastic chairs chatting with each other or the people manning the phones, or even just sitting in silence. I look through the clothing but nothing catches my eye. It is a place of treasures and trash and sometimes I get lucky. Most times I don’t, but it makes for a good game.