Mr Not Softee

it was easier when i was younger,
when emotions were a lot simpler and happiness was ice cream
simple as picking up a quart at the store (if mommy felt like stopping after work)
there are, however, no new daddies in the aisles of key food
waiting for me to stop by and scoop one up
because if there were,
i would have gotten my fill
i would’ve walked there every time i wanted to climb in your lap
and waited on the bag your own groceries line, even behind the lady with the WIC checks who’s taking 2 hours, even behind the old man arguing over $.30

the promise of your arrival was precious as the chime that played
signalling to all of us that the truck was on its way
waiting at the window, nose pressed to the glass, i watched the street and wouldn’t move
even when he hit the stop sign at the end of the block, which meant he had 34 seconds before my house
i wouldn’t move
what if you couldn’t see me behind the truck, or you wanted to call ahead before you came so I could get you a chocolate cone with sprinkles?
so i didn’t move
friends shared their playground triumphs over sloppy licks,
dripping bits of childhood they’d never see again unless in their memories onto hot pavement below
i saw them throw popsicle sticks on the ground and run to continue games of hide and seek
while I sat in a dress and stockings my mother ironed knowing they’d never leave the house that day
the crisp dollar lost its shape with my tiny, sweaty palm closed around it
trying hard not to bite my nails because I knew you’d notice

she never spoke a word as she undressed me, stripping the layers of disappointment from my dejected shoulders
it must have hurt her mother spirit to protect me from my misplaced protector
to push the lies past the lump in her throat onto her tongue to feed me with,
giving me empty calories that i could never swallow as easily as ice cream

so she walked with me down the freezer aisle
letting me touch and read all the containers, taking my time to choose the perfect one
like she realized she should have done
and she patted the hair that was just like his
ushering me into the land of women who solve men trouble with ice cream
long before it was my time.

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