When I still lived there, Middleton was a small town that woke with a long stretch, pulled its face into a muffled yawn, and shook out the stillness of the night before. The town bloomed off a small stretch of highway that I wasn’t supposed to cross alone.
I lived on one side of that highway in a complex of identical-grey-houses with identical-bushes cut into identical-hideous-cubes. The road was built in shades of grey and green; the administration fought to keep it that way. Holidays meant one string of non-blinking lights around the inside of your front window, and three non-denominational white electric “candles.” Across the road were shades of red and yellow, brick buildings and a maroon ice cream shop stood in front of a stretch of dried golden dairy farm pastures.
On hot days when the sidewalk was hit with yellow light, the smell of sweet cream and cow manure would wander across the highway and down my little white paths, beckoning better than any plinking ice cream truck song could have. It was one of those days, and I was standing outside Richardson’s Homemade Ice Cream with Kyle Tucker.
He had introduced me to the wonders of rocky road ice cream and I was smiling with sticky brown spots at the edge of my mouth. At six years old Kyle had mastered the art of female seduction: feed them chocolate. I was bursting out of my blue over-alls with glee, it was love.
Kyle held the left-over money his mother had given us, a responsibility I was in awe of. She had sent us off from the far edge of the parking lot, waiting in the car while we wandered. Obviously this is what it meant to be an adult.
After scraping the edges of our ice cream bowls for melted remains we tossed them into the trash. We laughed and wandered back towards the car, I was looking at Kyle. Suddenly, his eyes stretched and I watched his mouth move from a smile to the shocked O of the word “MOM!”
As my eyes moved from Kyle to the open door of his navy mini-van my mouth dropped into a silent version of that same O-shape. There was Kyle’s mother, her hair scrunchied back in a messy ponytail, and even worse, her shirt pulled up to reveal her breasts. I was staring at her gargantuan nipples and the slimy thing in her arms that that must have been Kyle’s baby brother. I was an over-all clad Lilliputian in the yellow light of the parking lot, tears welling up in my eyes and falling into the frozen O of my mouth.
“Kyle, take Alessandra back to the ice cream store.”
Waiting, we sat on opposite ends of a red picnic table fighting off bumble bees while Kyle grumbled. We sat for what must have been ages, Kyle wrought with a sense of impending hormonal doom. I don’t remember the ride back to my little grey house.
It was hopeless after that, Kyle began wearing awful green sweatpants and stopped buying girls chocolate ice cream. He stopped making eye contact with me. I don’t think we really spoke again until the end of sixth grade, when other girls began busting out of their buttons while I lagged behind the puberty train, smiling in the yellow light of a hot day.
“Do you want to go get ice cream?”