The Man in The Ice Cream Truck

The ice cream truck is pulling over by the poolside. The old man driving it barely looks at the lawn, a perfect stretch of grass surrounding the cemented pavement circling the clear blue pool of water. There are but just a few swimmers, lapping tediously. They make their moves perfectly, almost no splashes around them. The old man pushes the button and turns on the naïve music player. He can’t hear the music, the sound of the ancient engine crackling covers it. He thinks: “As long as they can hear it from outside is what I need.”

For years, the joyous music played as an announcement to let the kids know the ice cream truck was there. They ran frantically towards the truck, parents with water still dripping from their bodies, rapidly searching for wallets to find those few coins. “I want vanilla with chocolate topping!” one said. “Strawberry and mango, please!” another one shouted. “Pineapple and coconut, and a scoop of chocolate!” a baritone voice comes over from the back. “I want cream, more cream on it,” cries one from the crowd. Being a young man with his black curls and tan face, he had to filter through all those voices and sort their sources, fastly filling cups and waffle cones. The bills and the coins jumped on the counter from all over, and he was handling, counting, sorting and changing with the ability of a magician. It was like another pair of hands appeared from somewhere and just added to the one maneuvering the ice cream machine. Soon enough, the crowd will disperse back on the grass, eating it, enjoying it, sharing it, spilling it all over. A few more minutes, the engine roaming smoothly, the speaker still on, a few more orders and the crowd soon abandoned him. Watching from his counter the kids by the pool, their faces stained with the colors of the ice cream they were eating, he arranged the bills and coins carefully, visually summing them up to estimate the profit of the day. Enough to buy the groceries, enough to put aside for the bills, enough to buy ingredients, enough to feed the ever thirsty engine. Also, enough to fill the man with content as he remembered his childhood and the ice creams that were but a dream to all the children spotting the beach.

He came from a faraway tropical land, palm trees, leaves waiving in the warm breeze, a sun always bathing the shore, the waves always inter-coursing with the sand. The kids playing in the dusk, careless and happy. Children dreaming of adventures, dreaming of the land that is beyond the great blue gulf, the land of big dreams and high promises.

He came on a boat, with his parents along with a few dozen others, poor and desperate but determined and hopeful to land on the shore of the greatest country in the world.

He grew up in a dusty town hidden between cactuses and never ending stretches of sand, and winds sweeping continuously. He became a teenager, then an adult. His parents stayed close to the shore, close to their native island that disappeared beyond their reach. Then he left for the big city on a Northern shore, swept by icy winds and cold rains, donned by thick layers of snow brought by blizzards, but gently loved by the sun for a few months of summer. Loving it since he first saw it, the greatest city in the world. Learning to stand the cold, to fit in small places, to squeeze himself through narrow pathways. He worked all over, washing dishes in dirty kitchens, chopping veggies or slicing meats, unloading cases from big trucks, dreaming forever of his island but unconditionally loving the shiny city with its towers pinching the mighty sky. One day, he bought the truck from another countryman of his, who abandoned the north land on a freezing winter to dream away in the deserts of the south, precariously camped in an old rusty van. He paid a little of his savings because the man was desperate to sell. For years to come, he drove the streets to reach the pools and sold his ice cream, loving the children, loving his ice cream, loving his snow white truck.

Then the pools lost their crowds, adults and children hung out in their houses, away from a sun that became “toxic”, all caught up on strange devices, prisoners of a virtual world the old man could not understand.

The man grew stubborn and kept driving. The little money earned did not pay the bills, but he kept driving, he kept hoping to sell his ice cream.

A steamy and hot day in late August, the truck pulls over, squeaking and squealing like an old wreck. By the switch of the button, the speaker miraculously comes to life. Surrounded by no one, the play sounds empty. Not heard in the middle of loud noises made by humongous air conditioners, the tired engine coughs and puffs. In the light of late afternoon day, the pool is empty. The old man waits a couple of minutes, his face wrinkled, then puts the car back into gear and drives away. Rusty veins traverse the snow white car body. Music singing inaudibly, the car disappears in the street’s hecticness. The old man drives carelessly, dreaming at his lost island so loved by the sun, drives away towards the end of a time that vanishes in the vast ocean of memories.

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