It’s my last day to day. Today is the last ever day I’m going to work here. From today on, I will work no more. However I say it the words don’t seem to make any sense to me, somehow they don’t seem real, as if I’m in a perpetual nightmare I can’t shake loose. I still feel that once I pull down the shutters at 8 pm; it will merely only be another 14 hours before I open them up again and start a new day of work. But the truth is once they go down this time they won’t be opening up again, because today is my last day. Oh, the words are starting to feel real to me now, but in a very painful way as if I’m gurgling mouth wash filled with shards of glass and pieces of gravel. But instead of leaving me with a minty after taste, instead it’s bitter and poisonous. And when I swallow it, the grotesque words rest heavily on top of my heart and cause it to sink to the pit of my stomach. I hear still hear their spiteful voices ringing through my ears; you’re an old man, you’re too old to be working, it’s not safe for a man of your age. I know I’m old; my sore hip that refuses to relent pestering me with sounds of grinding, my stiff back that holds my every movement for ransom with the threat of tear tugging pain and my laboured breathes that make my lungs beg for air, tell me that every day.
Don’t they get it; this job keeps me young, this job keeps me alive, this job keeps me smiling, this job is who I have ever been, who I am and who I will always be. Now they want to take it away from me and leave nothing but a skeleton, covered in a thin veil of skin that is far gone its sale by date? You’re only an ice cream man, oh you sell ice cream?
Yes I’m a ice cream man, I’ve been one for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, 46 weeks a year for the last 40 years and I’ve loved every last big of it. I don’t own my own home, I’ve never had kids nor been married and I’d accumulated very few amount of friends along the way, but I don’t feel any bit ashamed or less fulfilled because of it. I know I should, you turn on the TV and that’s all you see and hear; buy a house, have kids, get married, spend time with friends or you will be filled painfully with regret. But I have no regrets in my life, well except one; my mother always told me “I want to be a grandmother before I go ops in the mind”, she never got those grandchildren she so wanted and I know because of that she died of a broken heart. I’m so sorry mother. But if I did try to spare you the heart break and married just any girl of the street, I would have had one instead. Because the truth is I never had those sleepless nights, heart thumping kid of love for any woman or that deep yarning, paternal desire to have kids either.
Why? Its only human nature to want those things, normal people want those things but I tell you why it wasn’t normal for me or in my nature; I was 42 when I first became a Ice cream man at Bournemouth beach. Prior to that I was everything under the sun, you name it and I probably had done or been it; I was a bin man, a technician at a bowling alley, a best boy on film sets, and even a scout leader. See the reason for so many changes in career is because I was always trying and failing to find where to put my cog in this big clockwork machine of a world we live in. But then I answered a job advert in the papers and decided to become an ice cream man and it was during my very first day subsequently that I realised that I had finally had that sense of belonging. Not as a cog in a machine but on the contrary as a living, breathing part of a real community.
Being an Ice cream soon became everything to me, the reason I woke up in the morning, the reason I had a smile on my face when I went to sleep and the reason I had a skip in my step everywhere I went. People find love because they desire companionship and don’t want to feel alone, people have kids to bring them joy and watch someone they care about to grow up. But what people didn’t get was that as an ice cream man, I had all of that in abundance; I never felt alone because every day I saw hundreds of familiar faces and thousands of new one who were ecstatic to devour one of my ice creams. I felt joy as I watched families coming together, children running, lovers laughing and I realise that the most filling job I have ever had in my life was the one where I delighted in the joy of being witness to people’s happiest moments.
I was never a doer, I always preferred to take a back seat and watch the beauty of life unfurl and humanity blossom in front of me, because only watchers can really appreciate the small niceties of life that the doers constantly miss as they run around at a million miles per hour. Because as I grew older, I realised that life only really slips through your fingers if you don’t take the time to hold tightly to it with hands and awe in its splendour. And from my little ice cream stand I held on it tightest I could every single day.
It is my last day as an ice cream man, a job that has kept my blood pumping through my veins, my heart pounding, my feet pirouetting, and now it’s over. I shudder to think what I would do the next day and day after that now my heart, happiness’s and fulfilment has been left in that ice cream stand on that Bournemouth beach.