I was walking down Oakland Avenue in Elkhart, heading to the bus stop to take the Red Line back to Goshen when I heard a high-pitched twang. The ice cream truck (van, really) drove past, heading down the street perpendicular to mine. I thought about how nice it would be to eat an ice cream bar after my long day at interning at Church Community Services. I had never bought ice cream out of a van before--I had never been allowed because my parents said it was too expensive and that if I wanted ice cream, I could have it at home. But, the van was long gone and besides, I actually did have some ice cream at home that I could eat.
I turned right onto Harrison. Soon enough, I heard the van’s jingle again and saw it drive past weaving through yet another street perpendicular to mine. No, not today. I would get ice cream from a van another time. But then, the van pulled back onto Harrison and stopped a block away. A few children were running around, but only two made successful pleas to their parents and came running to the van window with wadded up bills in their hands. I came closer and closer to the van, feeling my self-restraint ebb away. The two small boys were already clutching their fruity popsicles and staring at me as I went to the window and asked for the Turtle Bar.
“Four dollars,” the woman said.
“Four dollars?” I repeated, trying unsuccessfully to change my tone mid-phrase from disbelief and resentment to one more clarifying and confirming. Damn. My parents were right. I could eat twice the ice cream at home for the same cost. As the woman handed me the ice cream bar, the two little kids gawked. They weren’t jealous of my ice cream--they had their own--they were shocked that an adult could be so misguided. I opened up the cardboard package and then the excess plastic wrapping. I took a bite of the bar, cracking the chocolate coating to reach the vanilla ice cream and the caramel covered pecans inside and didn’t feel too bad. It was so good--better than I expected. I knew I wouldn’t do it again, but just this once I would enjoy ice cream from a van.
I walked on with a little extra pep in my step. As I continued down Harrison, more kids were playing in their yards and on the street, each staring avidly at me while I bit my ice cream bar. One small boy on a bicycle rode right up to me and could not look away, mouth open in jealousy. Either that or because I had ice cream covering my face. I smiled sheepishly at him, mid-bite. Parents, too, who were sitting on their porches watching the children, stared openly at me. I past some men who were loading paint buckets into their paint store.
They stared, and the one man said, “Well that looks real good.”
“Oh, it is,” I responded.
I kept walking and finished my ice cream, once again blending in with everyone else, no longer the object of everyone’s attention. I sat alone at the bus stop while people walked by thinking that maybe my parents missed the point of ice cream vans.
When I got home, I went to the freezer and pulled out the gallon of ice cream, scooped a bowl and sat in my bed by myself, eating it.