First Aid

Having found my tights slightly too aptly named today,  I turn demurely to the salad page of the extensive menu, ignoring the noodles (beloved noodles) entirely.  I select the green papaya with grilled shrimp and my soft-spoken waitress inquires "medium spicy is okay?"  I smile, "Yes. That will be fine."

Note to self:  Medium spicy in a Thai restaurant is never fine. Who do you think you are, exactly?

I consume three bites of fire salad before I am compelled to order a side of plain rice for purely medicinal purposes. It is (thankfully swiftly) delivered in a small, deep pot containing a quantity clearly intended for more than one person.  I leave one spoonful behind to indicate self control to anyone who may be observing, though I hope no one is, since, gluttony aside, my streaming eyes and dripping nose are probably not picturesque.

I finish, leave and, tongue throbbing, walk directly to the ice cream store. I am fully aware that ice cream will only compound the tights-tightening sins of the pot of rice, but my tongue is in need of urgent care. The ice cream, like the rice, shall be administered in the spirit of first aid.

Alas, urgency is not the theme of the ice cream store where a line of ten people is waiting to be served by a lackadaisical teenager, the lone employee. Next door, what was for decades a thriving corner store has been transformed into some sort of corner artisanal market, all wide-open space and locally sourced muffins. There is ice cream artfully displayed in a freestanding freezer case.  None of it costs less than ten dollars.  As I cross the street to a decidedly unpromising liquor store, a man coming up 16th Street on roller skates weaves through two directions of oncoming traffic on Valencia, undeterred by the darkness, the newly red light, or his total lack of protective gear. I have to look away.

I reach the store and squeeze though to the back swiveling my head hopefully as I go, but find nothing colder than refrigerated beer.  Dejected, I give up and turn to leave. And there, right in front of the cash register, there is a freezer after all. Oh frabjous day! A shabby but smiling alcoholic, waiting for his derelict-looking companion to pay for their sack of clinking bottles, waves me toward the cashier with a courtly bow. I peer into the freezer and see my very heart's desire: an old-fashioned, completely artificial ice cream sandwich.  A dollar fifty later, I am easing it, rather untraditionally, into the cozy pocket of my down jacket, the better to smuggle it into the movie theatre.

I am in my seat and unwrapping it before it even has time to melt.