In Denial

The ice cream I’m eating is delicious. My god it’s so good. It’s creamy, first, right when you put it on your tongue, and it starts to spread immediately and the pleasure center of my brain lights up like Vegas because it’s so foreign, this frozen cream in my nearly 100 degree mouth. I let that first spoonful melt on my tongue and close my eyes and stop walking for a second. Dear Lord, it is so delicious. There’s butterfat in here, it said so on their signs. I don’t know what butterfat is, but that’s got to be how it tastes so good. That’s part of it. The rest of the flavor comes on like a freight train towards a car that has stalled on the railway. It’s vanilla at first. There’s something more though, it must be that ribbon of caramel even though I dug around it for the first bite. A whisper of it.

I remember that I’m walking and I’m in the middle of the street, not on the sidewalk. I’ve veered off, my legs shuddering because the ice cream tastes too good. I eat another spoonful and have to sit down on a bench, next to a dog. He’s smiling. Or panting. Dogs look like they’re smiling when their mouths are open. I smile at him and say, “It’s Vanilla Caramel with Sea Salt.” And take another bite. It’s been maybe six or seven months since I’ve had ice cream. I told myself I would deny myself ice cream for six months and it worked like a charm – the next bite I had of ice cream (the one I had one minute and sixteen seconds ago) was the most delicious bite of anything I’d ever had.

I don’t think I’m fat or anything. But it’s fun to deny yourself something for a while. To anticipate it. Sometimes the world denies you instant gratification by announcing a movie you’re going to want to see maybe eight months in advance of when it actually comes out, and that’s when you start to really become aware how time moves – so when you deny yourself something, it’s doubly difficult. It’s nearly impossible, too, because you’re the only mountain in the way, and you’re not a difficult mountain. You’re a mound sometimes, easily stepped over to get to your ice cream.

The dog looks at me with his mouth closed and his ears perked and I say out loud, “If I was going to get a dog, I’d have to go on a diet.” It sounds crazy out loud but it makes sense. I’ve denied myself a dog all my life, so I have no idea what it would be like to have one. It’s not like this ice cream. I’ve had ice cream before, and when I denied myself ice cream, I knew exactly what it would be like to not have it. I knew I would start to see ice cream everywhere and Ben and Jerry’s would bring back my favorite flavor and the neighborhood shop would come up with something like Strawberry Balsamic which I would be dying to try – and I knew that when I did finally get to have ice cream again it would be transcendant.

The cup is gone. I’m sucking on the spoon. I drooled a little bit. Like the dog’s doing now.

So if I got a dog, I’d have to look forward to it and I’d have to deny myself something else. I’d have to go on a diet. Maybe no red meat. That would make sense because then the dog and I could eat red meat together when I got him. I bet you dogs would be wonderful cooks if we let them. I imagine the dog next to me in a chef’s hat, in my apartment, cooking me dinner. He barks when he needs something.

“You want peppercorns?”

“Bark!”

“Okay, I’ll grind them up. Are you sure I can’t use this already ground pepper?”

“Grrrrrr…”

“Freshly ground peppercorns it is.”

I can only imagine the sorts of flavors dogs would mix. They lick sidewalks sometimes, I’ve seen it. They know flavor, and they don’t mind bad flavor. I bet, after a really good long time of being on a diet, I would be incredibly excited to eat the sort of delicacies a dog would create.

I let the dog smell my hand and then I start to pet him and he closes his eyes and scooches his body forward so that he can put his head in my lap. Can dogs have ice cream? I want to get another scoop and I bet he would chomp it down and match me drool for drool as we ate together. There was that flavor back there I wanted to try as well – baby coconut and mango. I had a bit of it when I was there but it was too exotic for right then. I had to go a little bit more traditional.

The dog starts to lick my hand, like he can already taste my want for ice cream. I don’t necessarily have to go on a diet to get a dog. I’ve denied myself a dog my entire life – I did it without knowing but now I feel all those 25 years without a dog. He would accept me even if I was a little bit too big around my thighs. And he could taste what I cook. Maybe I’d eat less because I would be sharing. The owner comes and looks at me and I say, “I think I want a dog.”

He unties the leash from the bench leg and scratches his around his ears.

“You can’t have mine,” the guy says. The guy kind of looks like his dog. Alert. Big eyes. I picture him with his mouth open and tongue lolling and laugh.

“That’s okay. I’ll find one of my own.”

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