The Bubblegum Cigarette Racket

By James Thorne

We knew the song because everyone knows the song. The song carries a meaning like something instinctual, like birdsong or thunder. We’d sprint from the icebox of the living room into the triple-digit heat of the Texas summer, chasing down the Ice Cream Man. We always caught him; he drove slowly.

Kelsey and Richard and Jennie and James — that was us, the kids. We didn’t love the Ice Cream Man, but we depended on him. He provided an essential service that went beyond daily sweets. I remember using one of his Popsicle Ice Cream Turbo Pops to assuage a lost (broken) tooth after I fell (was pushed) down the small slide that led to our kiddie pool in the front yard. The tip of the Turbo Pop was red, which made it hard to distinguish blood from melted syrup.

When the Ice Cream Man came through, Kelsey handled the exchange. I’ve always had a fear of money, which is to say I’ve always had a fear of responsibility. The exchange worked mostly the way you might expect: give money, get ice cream. The rub came when we stood there waiting for change and the Ice Cream Man held his hand above our heads, palm-face up, and shook his head.

From behind the woolly curtain of his mustache, he explained: “No coins.”

We had to take his word for it, because otherwise we’d have to stack ourselves in a human ladder to glimpse into that large palm and see for certain if he was lying. He was, of course, but we had no way of calling him out.

We reached a deal. Rather than coins, we’d take bubble gum cigarettes as change. We were thrilled.

The bubble gum cigarette racket continued until my mom finally thought to ask for change. We reached into our pockets and produced a dozen sticks. Momma Bear wasn’t pleased. By the time the Ice Cream Man came back around, Momma Bear had gone from not-pleased to peeved to pissed.

So pissed-off Momma Bear strutted out after the slow-rolling Ice Cream Man and stopped him in the street. He listened to her tirade for a patient minute. Then, brilliantly, from behind the woolly curtain of his mustache, he explained: “No English.” Momma Bear hooted and stomped until the Ice Cream Man drove off. The jig was up, and the Ice Cream Man never came back.

We’d later hear him — driving down nearby streets, a peddler like any other — and think to chase him down. We never did. It was too risky, the heat too oppressive, our sense of geography too pitifully lacking.

Richard smokes now, and thinks the detail of the bubble gum cigarettes must be significant. Kelsey instinctively curls up whenever she hears the song, and she won’t go out with friends to hail down other ice cream men. Jennie and I have developed a habit of protecting the identity of those who have slighted ourselves or our family. That way, we keep Momma Bear away from confrontation.

James Thorne is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, where he is currently working on his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @jamescthorne.

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A Taste of Communist Chocolate

By Brendan Spiegel

By late morning in Santiago de Cuba the sun is already oppressive, pouring down on every inch of these sultry streets. A port town built along the backside of a narrow bay, Santiago’s setting was perhaps strategic for Spanish conquistadors, but it also serves to sequester it from the kind of cooling sea breezes that flutter off the malecon in Havana. The midday heat here is impossible to avoid and makes any kind of movement all but unbearable.

That of course, makes the prospect of an ice cream stop in Santiago irresistible — even given the laughably long lines that snake out from the open-air La Arboleda ice cream parlor, circling down the block, and as far as is evident, barely moving at all. Our first few times passing by, my cousin Cara and I deemed the line not possibly worth the wait, but after two days in this blistering city, we decided that whether the wait is measured in hours, minutes or days, there’s no chance we aren’t stopping in for ice cream this time.

We join up at what appears to be the end, and wait for twenty minutes on the first segment of the line, behind hundreds of people barely inching forward. As we finally reach the front we’re directed towards another line, then yet another, until 45 minutes later we approach the small gate fronting this elite enclave of rusted patio benches and faded umbrellas. Two guards handle traffic, letting groups of ten in at a time, under a strict limit. If there are nine people ahead of your party of two, there is no way you are both going in this round. Ten in and ten out — no exceptions.

It is classic Cuba — an unwieldy wait, a rigid system with no apparent rhyme or reason, yet people who seem perfectly content to wait, with nary a sigh of exhaustion or muttered complaint. I don’t know if this speaks highly of the way Cubans do things or lowly, but I can say with certainty that if there was ever this kind of delay for a salted caramel cone at Ben & Jerry’s in New York City, at least one fistfight would have broken out by now and the air would be ringing with the shrieks of whiny toddlers. Here in Santiago, there is neither gleeful anticipation nor outraged frustration. We simply wait.

Finally we’re among the next ten to be granted entry. Once inside, we’re ushered over to an empty table and handed three elaborate menus. By this point we’ve eaten in enough Cuban restaurants to know that the lengthy lists are just for show; the server informs us there are only two options today: chocolate and naranja — orange (my Spanish is rusty but some things, like dessert flavors and how to order a cerveza, I never forget). Everything comes in servings of two, five or seven scoops. The two of us debate whether to be modest and share a two-scoop serving — but we go for it and order two scoops each.

The little kids across from us seem amused when our dual scoops are served, but I don’t understand why until their family’s own order returns. Apparently, each of them have opted for seven scoops — the mother, father, sister and brother are each presented with three elaborate trays: two full-size scoops in one upright dish, three additional heaving portions in a more rotund bowl, and two more slathered atop a slab of yellow cake. Just to reiterate: that is not a list of what they are sharing. Each member of the family has everything described, for a glorious total of twenty-eight scoops and three slices of cake.

Looking around, we realize they are not alone — practically everyone here, aside from the clueless gringos, has ordered an outrageous amount of ice cream.

The entire family dives in immediately. There are no shouts of delight, no breaks to beam up with satisfied, chocolate-streaked grins. The two children — she can’t be more than seven, the boy maybe five — devour all seven scoops without a visible trace of merriment or concern. They’re eating as if it’s their job — heads down, mouths open, eyes on the prize. Their straight-faced father is not far behind, reaching the bottom of his own three dishes a minute later. The stick-thin young mother must be watching her figure — after four or five scoops she pulls a Tupperware from her purse and dumps in her leftovers.

As my cousin and I tepidly finish our bowls of mediocre chocolate and orange, we can’t stop laughing at the perplexing, fast-moving scene around us. I ask for a check and plop down a few convertibles — the equivalent of two dollars in the shadow currency offered to foreigners. I realize later that everyone else is paying in local pesos; at 1/25 the value of the convertibles, they paid mere pennies for their sweet smorgasbords.

I’m neither a Che-worshiping backpacker nor an anti-Castro activist — more of an interested observer — and what I find most striking about Cuba is how hard it is to explain; despite the abundance of arguments, how difficult it is to come up with an opinion of what Cuba is or should be. When I see the negative effects of a cut-off economy it is tough not to rile at the U.S. embargo, but when a feisty octogenarian woman grabs me on the street and insists on a salsa, it’s hard to think the culture of this country would be improved if it could only be overrun by American products and tour groups.

Of all the inexplicable moments during our two weeks in Cuba, the hour at La Arboleda is the one that stays with me most; the bemusement represents what we felt every time we turned a corner in this confounding country. I’ve investigated a bit but never found a solid explanation for why such a gorge-fest is an acceptable activity. It may have to do with the fact that the subsidized state-run ice cream company is a pet project of Fidel Castro himself, who supposedly boasted back in the heyday of the revolution that Cuba’s communist parlors offered more options than even Howard Johnson’s. It may be that in a struggling socialist state where only two flavors can be scrounged up nowadays, an afternoon at La Arboleda is one of the few respites from an otherwise treat-less life.

Or it may just be that when the sun gets so high in the sky that no other activity seems remotely tolerable, there’s nothing left to do but fix your gaze on a giant bowl of ice cream and just go.

Brendan Spiegel is Narratively’s Editorial Director and Co-Founder. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and New York magazine, among other publications. He has been known to get in fistfights and/or throw a fit over a cone of salted caramel.

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Sundae Girls

By Allyson McCabe

My first and only foray into food service was at a yuppie ice cream parlor tucked into the parking lot of a working class strip mall. Most of my preppy co-workers had been recruited from a suburban private girls school. I was a public school truant who’d wandered in off the street — a cool loser who wanted everyone to believe I’d already figured out who I was and what I wanted to be.

Regardless of our respective pedigrees, we were told we’d been selected from a large and competitive applicant pool. In the weeks leading up to the grand opening, the district manager stood by with her scale and stopwatch, judging our practice scoops, which had to be uniform, and our waffle cones, which had to be hand-folded. Those who passed muster were issued stiff red aprons and shiny square spatulas, and trained to justify the exorbitant prices — nearly double what the local Baskin-Robbins charged — and to push the most exotic and expensive toppings.

I don’t know what kind of genteel gastronomes management was expecting, but as soon as we opened for business, we were besieged by an endless parade of thick-necked, gold-chained guys and their hair-sprayed acid-washed girlfriends. They came by foot, bus and Camaro, waving their cash and barking their orders, expecting instant gratification even as the line wound around the block.

As much as we came to passionately despise the kiwi-consuming clientele, we dreaded the district manager even more. She’d come rolling up in her vanity-plated VW Cabriolet, stopwatch and clipboard in hand, eager to dole out pay-docking demerits for our subpar scoops and crooked cones. When the task of managing our motley crew from afar became too much she announced the installation of a new on-site second in command: Tracy.

Besides the fact that she was also broke and from my school, Tracy and I had nothing in common. She was a powerful social magnet, impossibly beautiful and a natural tanner. As her first directive, Tracy called the group together to tell us we’d soon be launching a new sundae promotion, which involved making our own whipped cream. As per management’s orders, Tracy was in charge of keeping a close inventory of the nitrous, which was to be stashed in the safe and doled out to us one cartridge at a time.

Tracy took her job seriously but it quickly wore on her as it had worn on us all. One night a guy came in minutes before closing demanding “sweet cream,” which we’d sold out of hours ago. His refusal to take no for an answer sent me clambering into the frozen depths of the walk-in where I stumbled onto an undocumented case of nitrous oxide chargers. I called Tracy into the back and showed her what I found. We exchanged an immediate look of mutual understanding. The only reasonable thing to do was kick the bum out and share the bounty with the crew.

We passed around the empty whipped cream canisters, holding the nozzles to our mouths, welcoming the coming rush of the gas. There was something magical about that dirty juice, a potent truth serum that allowed us to see that we were more than just of bunch of empty-headed rich kids, a queen bee and a misfit loner. The job may have thrown us together, but it was sharing the juice that made us stick. From that night on we were united, and we were on the noz.

Not surprisingly, doing non-stop whip-its made us not only incredibly euphoric but also incredibly sloppy. When it was too hot to smoke outside, we’d just light up behind the counter. When customers came in, we’d serve them one-handed, cigarettes dangling from our lips. “Are you sure you don’t want some whipped cream with that?” we’d giggle cheerfully as the ashes scattered over their orders. By the time management got wise, the summer season was at its peak, and we knew a mass purging was unlikely. We made a pact to stick it out until fall or our firing — whichever came first.

As August drew to a close, we had lost a few of the crew, but the friendships we forged felt lasting. One of the private school girls invited Tracy and me to an impromptu party while her parents were out of town. Even though she lived only a few miles up the road from the shop, her house sat on the cusp of golden suburbia, at the terminus of the 58 bus route; the edge of the world I as knew it.

With uncharacteristic trepidation, I followed the scent of Polo until it led me straight into a throng of orthodontically advantaged partygoers who appeared to be cast straight out of a John Hughes movie — boys with mushroom haircuts, khakis and sweaters draped over their shoulders, girls in pleated shorts and oxford shirts. I came straight from work that night in my tattered muscle shirt, denim cut-offs and ice-cream-encrusted Chuck Taylors. I never felt so exposed, or so invisible.

The lights from the in-ground pool cast an otherworldly glow onto their sun-kissed faces as the oscillating chords of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” blared from speakers hung along the backyard perimeter. I wanted to fit in, but I knew then that I did not and could not — not outside of the world created by the ice cream shop. All I could do was lean against the doorframe of the pool shed with a cigarette and a wine cooler in my hand, taking the party in with equal parts bemusement and detachment.

I don’t know what Tracy would have made of their exotic revelry. She didn’t come that night. Maybe she already had other plans. Or maybe she already knew the party was over.

Allyson McCabe teaches writing and writing for radio at Yale, and contributes regularly to NPR, The Rumpus and others.

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Grandmother’s Gelato

By Oscar Lopez

When I remember my grandmother it is in moments of delicate precision: a paintbrush dipped in lacquer as she made her decoupage panels; long fingers holding a pair of clippers to shape her balcony topiary; an ivory-backed hairbrush gently running through her hair. Her home was a Sydney palace: quiet white carpets, thickly folded drapes, baroque trimmings and a view of Bondi Beach. She was in all respects a proper lady, the kind of older woman whose cosmetics were kept in delicate, silver antiques, who packed all her clothes in careful plastic, and left the house looking like Greta Garbo even well into her seventies. Yet my last and most enduring image of her is of mess and delight and a gigantic scoop of gelato.

It started in Paris. I was living there at the time on a student exchange. I settled on abject poverty as a means of adhering to my idea of a bohemian lifestyle: I’d managed to find an apartment without heating and, in a bitter October, was shivering away with a glass of Côtes du Rhône in one hand and copy of Camus or Sartre or something equally ridiculous and existential in the other. Into my Parisian angst swooped Grandma, who was wealthy and willing to wander for the right cup of tea. There were museums, of course; she preferred the Louvre and I the Pompidou, but we found a happy medium at the d’Orsay.

There was lunch at some absurdly bourgeois club to which Grandma belonged, a block from the Champs-Élysées and retaining all of its second empire elegance, everything was delicate china and gilded mirrors. In my rebellious irreverence, I had neglected to wear a jacket and tie. After a deadly and quintessentially cool French gaze down a very long nose, I was loaned both from the front desk and was thus allowed to sip Champagne and gently prod my steak tartare.

And so, for about a week, it was café au lait by the Jardin du Luxembourg in the mornings and shivers, moldy cheese and musty blankets in the evening. And before you ask, no, the irony of my self-imposed poverty and my excessively wealthy relatives is not lost on me. While I might have liked to style myself as the next Van Gogh, complete with prerequisite suffering and dismembered ear, who wouldn’t prefer a macaroon to McDonalds?

Among the many excesses provided to this bourgeois boheme was a trip to Rome, staying, of course, at the Savoy. We took a tour of the ruins and wandered the churches and palazzos, sipped cappuccinos and ventured to the Trastevere. We wandered down Via del Corso, stepping into Gucci and Prada, where shop assistants regarded me suspiciously but flocked eagerly around the restrained elegance of my nona.

For my grandmother and me, Europe was a bridge spanning the fifty years that separated us. For her, the daughter of wealthy Polish immigrants to Australia, Europe represented the height of class and a sense of home long left behind but inherited through memory and migration. For me it represented art and culture and sophistication and everything that small, backward, out-of-the-way Australia lacked. And so we met in the middle and carefully considered the differences between rococo and renaissance, and admired everything from the Pieta to the Piazza Navona.

And so we arrive at gelato. Among the many postcard places we visited was the Trevi Fountain. Thronged with tourists and packed with peddlers selling their knickknacks and miniatures, the fountain, er, overflows with Italy-ness. Among the many shops lining the gurgling waters is a gelato store whose name escapes me but whose endless variety of flavors I well remember.

Now before I go on, it warrants explaining that, for my grandmother, ice cream was kind of a big deal. Her life-long gluten intolerance along with her dietary discipline had deprived her of most sweet things that crumble. But those of a meltier variety held a rather special place.

We each selected our flavors: dark chocolate and hazelnut for me, salted caramel and crème brûlée for her. After a long day of sightseeing and selfies, sitting in a quiet(ish) corner and languidly licking a gently melting mound of yum was, in a word, bliss. But there was a problem. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this amazing skill of spreading whatever I’m eating from chin to forehead and beyond. A common childhood affliction, yes, but well into my twenties I’ve still haven’t quite kicked the habit. And, with a ball of gelato the size of a small volleyball, the effect was frankly disastrous.

Realizing the sticky situation I was in, I looked over at Grandma in a panic, steeling myself for her gently disappointed stare. Instead, I found a mirror image: grandmother sitting back, eyes closed in bliss, salted caramel dripping steadily across diamond rings, down gold-bangled arm, onto Prada pants and Balenciaga bag. She opened her eyes and looked at me, looked down at herself, then back at the mess on my shirt. We could do nothing but laugh and wipe away the sticky deliciousness from chin to elbow.

It was a small moment, one of many such travelogue pictures. But to me it’s retained a bittersweet significance. Our European escapade was the last trip my grandmother ever took overseas — shortly after she returned she was diagnosed with the ovarian cancer that ended her life. We had other moments together back home as her health slowly declined and she grew softer, paler, and, if possible, gentler. But in these two scoops of melting gelato, we shared a moment of total, ungoverned, bliss.

Oscar Lopez is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and theater director. Oscar’s writing has been featured in Newsweek, New York magazine and Musee magazine.

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Death Shake

By Georgia Perry

My grandmother’s funeral was an awkward affair. I was in the sixth grade and it was on a school night. The preacher my aunt got to do the service said things about her personality that were so general it was clear he had never met her: “She was kind.” “She enjoyed reading.” “She loved her family.”

Afterwards, I got in the car with my mom and my dad, who loosened his tie and let out a sigh of relief. “O.K., it’s over. Who’s ready for a milkshake?” he said. I was caught off guard. Weren’t we supposed to be, like, mourning or something?

“You can still be in mourning and have ice cream,” my mother explained. She told me this was tradition — that when she was a little girl her father took her and a handful of her cousins out for milkshakes after the death of an elderly relative instead of subjecting them (and cleverly, himself) to the tedium of the at-home funeral formalities.

This was my indoctrination. That night we stayed out late telling stories about my dad’s mother over chocolate shakes and Chicago hot dogs at a diner not too far from the funeral parlor.

As the years went on, we had death milkshakes on a couple other occasions: when my mother’s friend died of cancer, in her forties. And when a close friend of mine died in a car wreck. It wasn’t that weird. You have to do something, anyway.

Make no mistake, though: We didn’t only drink milkshakes when somebody died. We just also drank milkshakes when somebody died. They were good for when you were sick, or had just gotten your braces tightened at the orthodontist, and — we discovered in high school — especially soothing after a breakup. Growing up in Indianapolis, our milkshakes of choice were from the Steak ’n Shake, a chain of roadside burger joints with old-timey black-and-white decor and servers who wore paper hats.

For decades the Steak ‘n Shake only had three kinds of milkshakes: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. But around the time I started high school they began expanding their artillery to include more flavors, as well as gimmicks like “side by side” milkshakes, where you could get two milkshakes in the same cup like a soft serve swirl, and mix-ins like Oreos and brownie bits. They started doing seasonal flavors like egg nog and peppermint at Christmastime, and peach in the summer. And they cooked up something called an “orange freeze” — a cool, dairy-less wonder that I got exclusively when I had sore throats. I loved them all. Chocolate had been my favorite milkshake flavor for years, but once Steak ‘n Shake upped their ante I was all in. I tried something new every time I got a milkshake.

I went away to college, and on my birthday the guy I had started dating left a milkshake with cookie dough bits melting on my doorstep and a note that read, “I was going to put this in your fridge but your door was locked! I hope you come back soon?!?!”

I came home that summer, and it was clear that our dog was dying. The hard thing about pets dying of old age is that they do it for a long time. They gradually deteriorate, but they still seem happy enough, and you love them so much, so you let it go for a while. Then at some point you realize that your pet is no longer just your companion. Your pet is a dying creature, and it is your responsibility to put her out of her suffering.

By June our dog had to sleep on her lamb’s wool bed in the garage because she had lost feeling in her back legs, and would pee in her sleep without realizing. She was skinny, and her eyes, which had always been droopy, had sagged so low that only a sliver of her eyeball could peek out. She was nearly blind. It was a wake-up call.

Her name was Madeline, after the French children’s book character. She was a yellow lab. She was the kindest dog to ever have lived. She was friends with everybody, even cats.

The day we agreed we were going to put her to sleep was a Saturday. Our next-door neighbor, a nice veterinarian with blonde curls and glasses with bright red frames, said she would come over and administer the shot and take care of the body for us. As grateful as I was for her help, I started crying as soon as I heard her unlatch the gate to our backyard. She was the grim reaper wearing a cardigan.

My mother, father and I had been sitting in the grass, petting Madeline’s fur. I felt her soft ears one last time. We always said they were like velvet. My dad said his line, which seems mean but isn’t, really — he used to say it when she was a puppy, and she was really bad, always chewing on things and breaking through the fence. She turned into a sweetheart around three years old, but he still said the line to her sometimes just for tradition’s sake. He looked in her droopy eyes and said, “I’m the only one who loves you…and I don’t love you very much.” He said it now in a bittersweet way, because now everyone loved her. We loved her so much. Too much. We kept her alive for too long that summer because of it.

Afterwards my mom, dad and I went out for milkshakes. The list of options had ballooned even more this summer. But I thought of Madeline’s cream-colored fur, and her pureness of heart. I ordered a plain vanilla milkshake.

Georgia Perry is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as the Portland Monthly, VICE and Reductress. She is currently working on a book of fake Christmas letters with her writing partner, Andy McAlister. Follow her on Twitter @georguhperry.

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The Real Thing

By Marcy Franklin

For the longest time, all I ever really craved was frozen yogurt. I discovered the great big world of frozen yogurt while in college, when we still thought that neon-green whiskey sours were drop-dead amazing, pizza should only be eaten from Cosmo’s at three a.m., and Rolling Rock was still an acceptable beer to drink outside a game of beer pong.

We’d schlep over to the nearest frozen yogurt stand on Boulder, Colorado’s Pearl Street, usually hungover in our sweatpants and North Face jackets, and load up our no-calorie, non-fat, regret-free frozen yogurt with every imaginable topping. How could you possibly say no to chocolate chip cookie dough, brownie bites, sprinkles, gummy bears? (Actually, we learned never to put gummy bears in frozen yogurt. They freeze too quickly and become rocks in your mouth.) It hit the spot. It was all we needed.

Frozen yogurt was a safe choice. Frozen yogurt didn’t pile on the pounds like ice cream did. Frozen yogurt didn’t assault my taste buds. It was a low-risk treat.

During college, and the years that followed, I tried, and failed, to live a low-risk life. I stayed within my bubble of college and my group of friends. I joined the safe sorority of girls I knew would be kind. I took classes I knew I would succeed in. I rarely dated. I went to graduate school because that was a safe choice in a downward-spiraling economy with few job prospects. And then the pendulum would swing back the other direction and I’d find myself in a dizzying spiral of risky choices and circumstances I couldn’t take back: the nights of partying until five a.m. with no safe way to get home, going home with a stranger who didn’t know my last name, blacking out. I held myself far away from the edge, and when I finally inched my way in too close, I tumbled off in a dizzying, violent speed. Taking a risk usually ended in regret.

I eventually took the biggest risk of all and moved to New York City. I was far from home and knew no one but a handful of friends. And I did all of the things that had scared me so much in a previous life — made a new circle of friends, dated, found jobs, quit jobs, made life-changing mistakes, followed my dreams — and still came back to frozen yogurt for comfort. In a city like New York, there’s a sea of frozen yogurt shops to pacify even the most scared twenty-something who’s afraid that if she adds a few too many yogurt chips and blackberries to her cup of fro-yo, she’ll end up paying more than $5 and throw off her measly food budget for the month.

Over time, I craved frozen yogurt less and less. New York, now that I was growing up, wasn’t so scary anymore. I didn’t need the cheap, synthetic comfort of a brightly colored cup of fro-yo. Except when it came to love. Love was what scared me. I didn’t know it until Adam, a man I had met only briefly on a work trip but had made a lasting impression, waltzed back into my life. Two years of unspoken feelings and desires from that trip bubbled back up almost immediately, and once we had expressed them, they sent me spiraling back into old fears and insecurities. Of all the boys I had met, he was the first that felt like a man. One look from him, a man I barely knew, felt like it could rip me apart. Like he could see through every layer of me.

I needed my safety net. I needed to not fall. I needed frozen yogurt.

But there was one thing we had in common: a love of food. Late-night texts revealed all of our favorite New York spots for ramen, pizza, tacos, cheap beer, four-star meals. And when our conversation turned to ice cream, I confessed my all-consuming craving for frozen yogurt. He couldn’t believe it.

“What? Frozen yogurt? Frozen yogurt is fake! It’s not the real thing! You need to go to OddFellows, Big Gay Ice Cream, Morganstern’s. Get a pint of Jeni’s. Hell, go to Shake Shack and get a concrete. Do NOT get frozen yogurt. Get the real thing.”

I dug my heels in. I gave some sort of weak defense for my love of frozen yogurt, if such a thing could exist. The next night, in an act of stubbornness to show I didn’t really care what he thought, I finally went and got frozen yogurt. I got my usual, with all the works: pistachio-flavored fro-yo, coconut-flavored fro-yo, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, mochi chunks, walnuts, sprinkles.

It tasted like ice-cold cardboard. Not even the toppings could save it; it was a mess in a cup. I finished it, not willing to let even a penny of expensive toppings go to waste, and trashed the cup feeling just as unsatisfied and unfulfilled as I had before the first bite.

A few days later, I splurged on a pint of Jeni’s. The flavor was goat cheese with cherries. I opened up the melting pint before it even made it into the freezer, and took just the tiniest bite. It wasn’t fake. It was the real thing. I had had enough frozen yogurt. I had had enough barely-there boyfriends, online dates, fleeting one-night stands, superficial flings, in lieu of the real thing. In lieu of love.

I don’t crave frozen yogurt so much anymore.

Marcy Franklin still can’t believe she gets to write about food and drink for a living (though not always frozen yogurt). When she’s not writing for The Braiser and other publications about the foodie culture, she’s usually trying to find a happy hour deal for oysters and cocktails, or geeking out about craft beer.

*   *   *

Robyn Jordan is a Seattle-based cartoonist and elementary art teacher. Her (often-food-centric) illustrations have appeared in The Stranger, Diner Journal and other publications.