When I was about eight years old I lost the most perfect mountain of peach melba ice cream from the neck of a biscuit cone. I can still remember the feeling of devastation. I had nudged and teased it to perfection but still not really bathed my tongue in the sweetness and then, splat, it was on the gritty pavement at my plimsolled feet. There was nothing to save. There was no hope of replacement. I had to walk the rest of the way to my Auntie Sue’s house with cousins who slurped and crunched. I had to accept it.
So when you said to me that day,
‘You need to drop this narrative of loss,’
as you zipped your jacket and rolled your eyes away from my snot-slicked face, I thought, frankly,
‘Well, fuck you sideways, I know when my ice cream is on the floor.’
Which, of course, it was. But, the trouble is, since that day, I seem to have lost the ability to hold on to anything. It’s not a tragedy. I mean, I am well-versed in tragedy, and I know this isn’t it. But it is certainly leading to a lot of breakages and disappearances. I don’t own a mug anymore. The plates are nearly all gone and the last ones are mostly webbed with cracks. I’ve knackered my glasses. My phone screen is a star-burst. My house-keys leapt down the drain outside the pub. And the pub itself has finally barred me because they think anyone who smashes a glass on every visit is clearly a nutter.
It seems that I couldn’t drop the narrative. I just drop everything else.
But today I had a brainwave. I was walking past one of those poncy new ice-cream parlours that have sprung up all over town. You know the ones? Violet and teak flavour. Amaretto and Vim. That sort of thing. And I suddenly wondered. So I went in and bought three scoops with my last tenner. I managed to drop my meagre change while trying to slide it into the pocket of my jeans. But, miracle of miracles, I got through the whole cone. I had plum, chocolate and salted caramel – in a slicky, sticky tower that ran a swift river of drips over my knuckles. But what wasn’t lost to the cuff of my shirt made it into my mouth. I was focussed. Firm, gentle grip. Steady sweeps of my tongue. And, there, on the seafront, under the fast-moving clouds, I ate the lot. I felt it, a bit nauseating, more than welcome, lying in my stomach.
Then I zipped my jacket. Walked the length of the pier with my hands in my pockets. On the beach I picked up a grey, Sussex flint. Held it for sixty seconds. Before I could drop it, I threw it. Fucking impressive arc. Decided plop. Nice to let go.