Cherries, Ben and Jerry's

There’s one little lump of overly iced Ben and Jerry’s left in my freezer. It’s not even a flavor I like, Chocolate Macadamia, which is why it’s still there. I don’t want to eat it because as soon as I do, I will have none left. As soon as I have nothing, I will think of nothing else.

For several days I didn’t eat that lump but I knew it was there. It was the only sugary and fatty thing in my kitchen, but I held out. Not because I’m so saintly, but because I don’t really like crystally rock-hard Chocolate Macadamia. And there’s not enough there to get excited about. As soon as I take a bite, I’ll be annoyed there’s only one bite left. If you need a diet trick, I guess this is it.

It’s gone now, of course, due to a late-night bad TV commercial moment. Even I can’t hold out forever. Now all I can think of is how quickly I can replace it. I’ve thought about it for two days. That’s like a year for someone as addicted to sugar as me. I don’t like being this good. I can’t keep it up and I’ll only compare myself now to myself later on and feel guilty for falling short. It’s not self-control when you don’t have a choice.

Being Ben and Jerry-less in a new town where you know no one is just pathetic. Time to walk the seventeen blocks to Safeway to get two more friends with the same names. For a minute I think about what it would be like to wait one more day.

Right then Charlie calls. “I miss you so I’m eating Ben and Jerry’s,” he says. “Make me stop.”

“Stop you?” I say. “I’m thinking about getting some myself. What kind are you eating?”

“Banana Split,” he said. “I only have half left. I ate too much last night but here I am, eating the rest of it. It’s better than ‘Chunky Monkey,’ don’t you think? They’re both amazing. Which one do you like better?”

Yeah, I’m not going to be waiting another day. I get on my shoes and get philosophical about banana-based ice cream flavors. “Any of them,” I said.

“There are brownie pieces in this. Did you know that?” Charlie says. “Or is it fudge? It’s a good complement to the banana ice cream. It really brings the flavors out.”

I must get some NOW. Charlie finishes his pint and, at the same time, finishes his food porn conversation. I can go get just as stuffed with sugar and fat as he is now. While I’m putting on my sweatshirt, Sean my son, calls.

“If you don’t like the bird guano smell in your apartment, Kyla and I will gladly move in there,” he says. “We don’t mind.”

This tells me I might have been whining a bit too much about the odors in this apartment. It’s just that they’re so . . . unusual. I’ve never smelled something so tangy and musty outside a zoo. It makes for interesting internal dialog when you first wake up.

It makes for interesting external dialog for the rest of the day, too. After painting most of the walls and ceilings and especially after painting the closets, I guess I’ve discussed how surprised I am the smell is still here. I don’t know what the previous tenants were thinking, but I know they weren’t thinking about which cleaning products would work best on their nasty bird debris. A cat lived here for a decade before the bird people. You can still smell the feline memories in the lower cupboards of the kitchen and bathroom. I like the smell of cleaning products much better. That’s all I’m leaving for the next tenants after me. I intend to leave a lot of that smell.

Now I'm thinking that my tenacious use of cleaning products might be what’s giving me a headache. Is it better to die by cleaning product odors or by cat and bird poo fumes? Since I have a daughter who opens the dishwasher mid-cycle, just to enjoy the smell of the detergent, you can guess my answer. My daughter and I call each other to talk about the latest “Clean House.” We can talk about pristine living for hours. Obviously, cleaning fumes will figure prominently in my obituary.

Sean, it seems, will die fume-free. I don’t think he’s too familiar with the smell of the cleaning products. I'm not sure he's even been around a dishwasher lately, come to think of it.

He tells me well thought-out ideas he has for his future. He has reasonable plans, based squarely in reality. He’s moving forward with school, his career options are viable, and he’s looking ahead to making the world a better place.

I’m thinking about when Safeway closes. 9 p.m? I can wait. Sean’s getting my mind off my bird guano headache.

Since I’m standing by the door, I straighten the shoes on the rack. There are five pair here. I put them in ascending order, big to little, and arrange them by color and size. I roll up their laces and put them inside the insole, all the same way, on all pairs of shoes. I listen better when I'm putting things perpendicular to the wall or arranging stuff from light to dark. I'm not really aware I'm doing it until I go pick out a shirt and notice that my closets are spectacular.

Sean is in a talkative mood. “I’m doing laundry so I have a few minutes,” he says. “I need to learn economics to pass the Praxis. What books would you recommend?”

Two of my favorite subjects are books and economics, so I may be here a while. I head to the kitchen to straighten the coffee cup handles in the cupboards. I have them all facing 2 o’clock and all the exact same distance apart before he starts to talk about geography.

While I’m arranging the towels in my kitchen drawer, I realize it’s already past 8:30 p.m. I can certainly continue this conversation while walking to Safeway, so I do. By the time Sean’s laundry is done and we’re done talking, it’s ten minutes to nine. I’m at the sliding front doors of fat and sugar heaven. I know exactly where Ben and Jerry reside. I walk straight to the freezer aisle.

What’s this? Twine wrapped around the handles of the freezer doors? I can’t comprehend what this might mean but I can see a beautiful pint of “Banana Split” just on the other side of the door. I’m inches away. There isn’t any frost on the pint, even. And next to it is “Chunky Monkey,” also frost-free and looking like love. What’s with the twine, though?

I look around to see if anybody’s looking, in case I can open this freezer door, grab the closest pint and run off. I’m going to buy it, of course, if I can get to it. I’m not a thief.

At that exact time a real San Francisco-y voice comes on the loudspeaker. “We are sorry, Safeway customers,” she says, “our freezer motor is broke and we are unable to sell frozen items at this particular time. We apologize and we hope to have our freezer working again real soon. Don’t ax me when. I don’t know at this time, okay?”

Is this God telling me to quit eating so much crap? No, God gave me taste buds and I'm going to enjoy His bounty, that is if I can pull this door open just a little more. I try but I couldn’t pull the door open far enough to stick my hand in and grab a pint, any pint. I tried it just a little bit more to make sure. Nobody saw me.

There is nothing else in this store I’m even slightly interested in. Maybe cookies. I look at some by the bakery and they’re $5.99. I can make cookies, so no, not for the price of almost two pints of Ben and Jerry’s. Chips? The aisle is packed with noisy people who look like they just came off the beach, taking a snack break in the middle of an amazing vacation. I don’t want to interrupt their fun by bringing down the tone of the aisle. Chips aren’t ice cream, no matter how much fat they have.

All that’s left is the fruit section and that’s where I find myself when they announce they’re closing. I grab a bag of red cherries and get in line behind more vacationers. They’re older and quieter and look like they’ve already had lots of alcohol-induced fun, judging by their glassy eyes and red faces. There will be more fun in their lives tonight, judging by the amount of alcohol in their cart. There's just fun everywhere in this Safeway.

Even here! I’ve got cherries. Party!!! My husband’s living in a trailer a state away, sick on Ben and Jerry’s and I’ve got a hot Saturday night full of the thrills of fruit. Being guiltless sucks.