An Ice-Cream Love Story

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An Ice-Cream Love Story
Last weekend, still sniffling from yet another blasted cold, I put on layer upon layer, wrapped and wrapped and wrapped my fuzzy purple scarf around my still slightly sore throat, buttoned up my red coat, perched my bonnet* upon my head and grabbed my mittens as I headed out the door. After clumping down six flights of stairs, crossing the small cour and heaving open the two-tonne door of the immeuble I was outside breathing my first fresh air of the day. And what was this weather?!?! What happened to the cold gusts of wind from the north and the shrill chill from the west? As I walked to the end of the street, breaking into a fine sheen of sweat in the process, I noticed that even the mannequins in the boutique windows had abandoned their winter woollies for pastel minis and neon halter-tops. Luckily, a bargain shopper extraordinaire like myself is never without a super-duper expandable bag to stuff stuff into. Off with les couches, sorties les lunettes de soleil. I couldn’t very well go for a frothy cup of steaming hot chocolate on such a gloriously warm day. Change of weather, change of wardrobe, change of plans. No worries. I had the perfect place in mind. During one of my first visits here a friend dragged me to a little ice cream parlor on a side street in the 5th arrondissement. He was completely fed up with my inability to fall in love with Paris at first, or even second, site. “Sit down, stop complaining and eat some ice cream!” were his exact words. Well! Never one to turn down ice cream even when being ordered to eat it by such a rude Parisian, I promptly grabbed a cuillère and helped myself. The artisanal glacier had taken ice cream to a superhuman level. Instead of the usual boul de chocolat it was served with three other flavors that made the taste of the chocolate explode. A big scoop of heaven for less than 5 euros. I dragged my friend back to that little place two more times during my five-day visit, before finally boarding a plane and promising to return soon. I guess that was the start of me falling in love with this city. But like any good French love affair, the seduction process was as drawn out and complicated as possible. On my next visit to Paris I dropped my bags, grabbed my friend and headed back to the ice-cream place, only to find it gone, closed, disparu, no forwarding address. I sat on the curb and pondered my plight. Love lost just like that. While I continued to visit Paris over the next few years, I never regained that sheer pleasure again. Until one day I was walking through the Tuileries on my way from the Louvre and I saw some familiar lettering on one of the carts set along the path where merchants sell treats and trinkets to the flood of passing tourist. I stopped in my tracks, sending up a cloud of dust. There he was. My ice -ream man. Anger and anguish filled me at once. Where had he been? Why hadn’t he left me word? How long had he been here, where any indiscriminate tourist could just go up to him and demand, “A cone Of C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E, See Vou Play.” I ordered a simple. He didn’t even recognize me. I took my cone and walked away, but before I could get very far I had already finished it. I could continue sulking or go back and face the traitorous ice cream man, and demand another cone, of course. “Where have you been?” I asked as a pudgy pink tourist shouldered past me and shouted over the counter, “Don’t you have any Pepsi?” “No,” he said to her then directed at me “L’autre place ne marche pas. 2 euros, Mademoiselle.” And that was that. Just like that he popped back into my life. All summer long I was content and in love again. I passed by the stand as often as I could. The ice cream man didn’t seem to notice my visits but that was OK. I understood. He was busy with the hordes of people crowding his cart, shouting out orders faster than he could scoop. Then one day there were less tourists filling the park and the weather started turning cooler. The summer was coming to an end. When I stopped for my cone that day I asked what he was going to do during the winter. He leaned against the side of the stand and crossed his arms over his chest. I never noticed before how blue his eyes were. “Je pars bientôt pour le Brésil. Peut-être que je ferais des glaces là bas.” He was kidding, right? When I went to look for him the following week, the cart was gone and not a trace of him was left in the sand. Boy, love hurts. I wasn’t sure if I could make it through the winter without him but I was heading back to the States soon and there would always be next summer. He was indeed back the following spring. Tan from his days in Brazil but looking sadder and sadder in his little ice cream stand. Then the next summer he wasn’t there. I was heartbroken and sure that was the end of it. But unlike most French movies this story has a happy (and understandable) ending. A few days ago I was crossing the Pont de l’Archevéché behind Notre Dame. I turned right on the Quai de Montebello and there, just opposite the artists with their easels overlooking the Seine and the street musician playing…
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