I made a very specific deal. With myself and the guy making the Egg Cream. The deal was: if I don't like it then I may not finish the entire glass, and I may not come back. If I do like it, I may order another, and I may become a regular around here, especially on hot days, or days I have nothing better to do, or days I just really want something sweet to drink. I'd not had an Egg Cream before, so I wanted to lay down some ground rules. The guy making the Egg Cream didn't seem to care one way or another. He just shook his head, gave me a toothy grin, and said: "Son, you're gonna love it".
And I asked plenty of questions: "Why's it called an Egg Cream? Are you absolutely sure there's no Egg Involved?" "Won't the sparkling water make it taste odd, like fizzy and dairy mixed together doesn't sound like such a great idea to me" and "wouldn't I be better off just getting a milkshake? Which flavour gelato is better for this anyway?".
I"m already sat in front of a large chocolate cream Cannoli.
I have acute ulcerative colitis. This is not what I'm supposed to be eating. I'm not supposed to be ordering strange drinks with names that don't match the explanations of their contents, I shouldn't be washing down something dairy with something else dairy. I don't need all that sugar. This country has never made much sense.
It's the first day of spring, or at least it seems that way. There are girls around in shorts that I don't understand, and young guys with their shirt sleeves rolled open, or even some of them wear no socks with their shoes. So I'm wearing a jacket I don't need, and socks, and pants that don't fit right anymore, and I need a few minutes and this place is the only place for miles around to have the AC working this early in the year. The guy calls me Son too. I like that. He's only maybe ten years older than me. He has more hair on his head. Mine is combed over my scalp, parted in strange ways, whispy, nearly white. I told myself years ago that I couldn't wait to go bald. That I was looking forward to shaving it all off, hiding the razor burn beneath a cap or a wool hat. I thought it would be easier. But I hadn't thought it through. I'd forgotten about the heat, and that I wouldn't want to walk around with nothing on my head, and so now I let the last remains of a full head of hair grow as long as it wants. I let it curl up and over my scalp, I pull it across; proudly sweeping it over. Pushing it flat against my crown with wet fingers from the cold tap in the bathroom. I wear my badge.
The Egg Cream is done; it comes in a tall sundae like glass with a small metal jug of left over mixture. It looks good. I slide my finger around the inside of the rim and take a taste. Unsurprisingly it tastes like a chocolate milkshake. I slowly take a sip from the frothy top. It's a thin milkshake. It bubbles slightly. It's a float. A Soda float. It tastes good though, it's cold and sweet and not too thick. It goes okay with the Cannoli. I'll finish the glass. Maybe I'll try the vanilla flavour next time.
"How'd you like that Sonny?"
The guy asks. I nod my head slowly, lips around the glass, pulling back the last of the drink, and wondering what change I have left in my wallet.