” I’ll have orange.”
“What size?” I know that this is a trick question. This was my sixth day in the USA and my first in sunny California. Usually when purchasing a snow cone/shaved ice concoction, I wouldn’t hesitate and head straight to the large.
“Medium,” I say smugly. I’m not falling for the Americanised sizing tricks. Well not again.
The pimply pizza boy puts in front of me a slice of greasy pizza, and what looks to be a large plastic dinner plate full of shaved ice (‘Platter’ might be a better word). That’s a medium! I breathe out slowly, extremely glad I didn’t purchase the extra large. It may have come in a wheelbarrow.
I try effortlessly to pick up and carry the pizza slice and my pasta bowl full of shaved ice. I do not succeed in looking effortless, and within 5 metres I already have fluoro-orange ice and pineapple dripping down my shirt.
Plonking myself down on some grass I decide to tackle my meal, my thoughts drifting to the napkins I had ignored back at the pizza shop. It was one of those moments when I was glad to be backpacking alone. What a sight I was, legs splayed, sticky fingered, mouth open, and my mountain of shaved ice tumbling all over me, and the grass. I was so engrossed in trying to eat everything before the ice melted and the pizza cooled, that it wasn’t until the last minute that I noticed the young Afro-American dude hurtling towards me on a bike.
The wheels stopped at the edge of my feast.
“MOVE OVER BABY AND MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY!”
I look up. I blink. I am speechless, and have paused midway to mouth. What exactly does one say to that? (NB: I am not normally speechless. In fact I am never speechless. Good friends would say that I need to be speechless more often. But at that comment, I was speechless.)
“What are you eating? What’s that?” He motions at the snow cone, which is now all over the ground.
“Shaved ice?” I say in a small voice. How embarrassing. My first experience with Californian men and I look like a contestant in an all-you-can-eat competition.
“Is it nice?” Clearly my appearance isn’t bothering him. This fact bothers me.
“Not really. You can have it if you like.” I don’t expect him to have it, but I had lost my appetite. This happens a lot when I lose all sense and buy cheap takeaway meals.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Yes.” Of course, this is a lie.
“Where is he?”
“Back in Australia.” Lies, lies, lies.
“Oh, shame, I was looking for a new girl,” he says disappointedly. He pauses reflectively, and I continue to blink at him. Finally he decides that this dinner date is over, and cycles off, with a few wheelies thrown in, no doubt to impress me.
I’m left in my pool of bad dining, and decide to bin the remaining kilograms of food and move on. I wander the boardwalk carefully, in case another eligible local decides to pull some moves. The adventure had begun, welcome to Venice Beach! (Note to self, no more American snow cones)