The Ice Cream Kid

When I’m in a crowded place and I’m bored, my first inclination is to pull out a book and read. Occasionally, I’ll forego burying myself in a story and I’ll observe the people around me.

This post is about one of those times.

I was in a crowded mall food court. Since it was a weekend, the place was packed. The smells of the different kinds of mall food conflicted with each other. Cheesy pizza fought with frijoles which fought with stir fry. There was a loud hum of people talking at the same time, numerous conversations blending into a cloud of white noise.

I think I was waiting for someone. I don’t remember for sure. I was sitting alone at my own table, a small miracle on such a mall-enticing day. And a short distance away, at another table, a small chubby kid sat eating a chocolate banana sundae.

You should have seen this kid. He was truly enjoying his food. I don’t think I eat anything with that much joy and absorption. Had I ever? I started thinking. Do I even taste what I put in my mouth anymore?

Earlier, I had been spacing out, just randomly glancing from person to person, but now, this kid was the center of my attention. He didn’t notice me watching him. How could he? From the look of him, he was eating the best sundae in the world. He was adorable. He would jam his spoon into the chocolate-smothered ice cream eagerly, and scooped each spoonful into his mouth with a smile, as if this was the pinnacle of existence.

And, true story, I started to cry in the middle of this crowded mall food court.

This mortifies me to no end, but, for some reason that I haven’t figured out yet, I feel like this random-ass moment was a turning point for me. Don’t know why. It’s just a feeling.

Unstoppable, uncontrollable thoughts began to unfurl in my brain. Ice cream was providing this kid so much happiness, but would it always inspire such delight? One day, this kid would grow up, and he would have to count every calorie resting coldly on that spoon. One day, this kid might lose interest in the simple pleasure of a sundae because he would be too busy worrying about looking acceptable for other people. One day, this kid might forget what it feels like to be happy.

I don’t know why my thoughts took a turn for the morbid. But it felt important. Like an epiphany, except I had no clue what I was suddenly realizing.

I tried telling some of my closest friends about this moment, but not a single one of them understood. The comments I received varied. Here’s a collection of paraphrased responses:

  • “Geez, Mandy, that’s a really dark thing to think.”
  • “Were you on your period?”
  • “That’s a little messed up of you, proscribing a future for that kid. Why are you just assuming he’s going to get fat?
  • “Okay.”
  • “Are you feeling all right?”
  • “Oh, Amanda, that is so like you.”

I don’t blame them for not getting it because, hell, I don’t even get it. I still don’t get it. It’s like I was sucked into a vortex of downward spiraling musings about this stranger. I worried about his future happiness, my future happiness, and the unfortunate proclivity of society to judge people based on appearances.

The moment ended abruptly. I got a call on my cell phone, and then I left the food court. I never saw the kid again.

I do try tasting my food now. Like honestly tasting it. And I always try to remember to enjoy the little things.

This moment may have been stupid. It may have been nothing more than me feeling irrationally emotional.

Ah, well.