three scoops

somewhere near my 13th birthday
i was in an ice cream shop in an underground mall in toronto
that was attached to a subway station in a way that i didn’t understand at the time
and they were offering one, two, or three scoops
in a cup or a cone

i asked for three scoops in a cone
and they told me that that would break
it wouldn’t work
they told me to get three scoops in a cup

but this was my first trip away from home
of my own choosing
and i wanted three scoops in a cone

it was a school trip
the international club of berkley high school had decided to go to toronto
and since canada had two official languages
the french club tagged along

prior to this trip
the only times i’d travelled alone had been to summer camp
first for christians
then for disabled children
since i was a disabled christian child

i did not know how stressful it would be
i was with the person i thought was my best friend at the time
and other people i considered friends

but on our own for some of our time
in a hotel on carleton just off yonge
close enough to walk to eaton centre
i became a nuissance and an afterthought

i needed to be moored to the familiar
but my limerent familiar abandoned me
in a foreign town with big buildings
and too many people who saw me
as a little boy lost

set adrift

i can frame it now with the language i’ve learned
untethered to the safe spaces
alone but never alone

but then i had no words
only fear and loneliness

i shared a hotel room with three other boys
the first night we watched ads for porn movies the hotel wouldn’t let us rent
until the chaperones found out and had the hotel shut them off
one was called “i like to watch”
one of the boys in the room scoffed at us because his father let him watch those at home
so he wasn’t interested in the ads

we were the misfit room
the boys who were one extra for the other rooms
i was always in the misfit room

every morning i had breakfast at the golden griddle across the street
that’s now called eggspectation carleton
and probably no longer has that booth i sat in by the window
with the cracked vinyl
and that reeked of maple syrup
with the cranky middle aged server who didn’t want to serve teens who didn’t understand tips
and didn’t drink coffee
and who slapped my plate of waffles down in front of me with an exhaustion
especially when i came back a second morning
to the same booth by the window

didn’t she know i had been set adrift
didn’t she know how alone i felt
had life really squeezed whatever compassion she’d had out of her

we went to casa loma as a tour
we found the secret passages
i felt like bad ronald
slipping between phases
hiding from propriety

behind the thrill of appearing and disappearing at will
there was a sadness and a fear
in those passageways
i lost something
i found something

it was a step in my transition
but i didn’t know it then

we went to the cn tower
up to the top
because we had to
because that is what people do on tour in toronto

i know we went up to the top
because we had to
but i don’t remember it

maybe the part of me that should have remembered
was still hiding in a passageway in casa loma

so on the last day
on our way to the subway station
anyone who had money left
stopped at the ice cream store

and i had just enough for three scoops of ice cream
in a cone
no not a cup
it’s on your menu
you have to do it

in a cone

and as i pranced out of the store to where my erstwhile friends sat
showing off my three scoops in a cone
i took a bite from the top scoop and the cone broke

my ice cream fell to the ground
the other students laughed
the world crashed around me
the meltdown was instant
it was every public meltdown i’d ever had
in a flash of sorrow and rage



and though i begged the ice cream store for a redo
and though they begrudgingly gave me a cup with three scoops
with an extra scoop of we told you it would break
and though everything got as fixed as it could get

it just didn’t taste like ice cream


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