In need of exultation, I exulted in a Frosty. Let me back up.
I started to walk by Wendy’s. It was a grey-white day in a grey-white month. Everything was the color of dry cement. It seemed like it might rain, or might not.
If it had rained everything would have been the color of wet cement.
In fact much of everything would indeed have been wet cement. But it didn’t rain. Everything was kind of in-between.
Everyone seemed like they thought about waking from a daze but then thought better of it.
I started to walk by Wendy’s but instead, feeling like I owed myself something — like the Universe owed me something, I walked in.
The Universe owed me a Frosty.
I had the means to make it happen.
There were about 5 people in line, and then an empty space in front of a cashier where it looked like another line might be. I asked the woman — a fellow customer — at the end of the line if there were two lines or just one. She held up 2 fingers.
But only one register looked open and I felt like talking. Sometimes, in a city of strangers hustling back and forth, you just feel like talking.
“I haven’t been in a Wendy’s in a long time” I said.
“Oh really,” the woman said, humoring me.
“I don’t know why” I said.
“Maybe because it’s so slow,” she said, indicating the line.
“No that’s not why,” I said, thinking that that would a strange reason to not visit a particular fast food restaurant chain. It might not be a good reason to visit *this* particular fast food restaurant though.
“I think I just don’t like Wendy’s,” I said. “Except for the Frosty.”
She gave me a friendly shrug.
I wanted to talk more but had pretty much used up that topic of conversation and was teetering on the edge between friendly stranger and strange stranger, so I walked to the front of the counter, where a woman who had previously been in conversation looked up and asked if she could take my order.
“Do you have a child-sized Frosty?” I asked.
She shook her head and said “Junior Frosty.”
“Oh Junior Frosty, then. Ok, I’ll have one of those.”
She nodded and went to the machine and filled up a little cup with frosty and then snapped a lid on it.
“I don’t want a lid,” I said, after it was too late.
I pictured Frostys of my youth, which ascended out of a bright yellow cup into a consummate swirl. That was when going to Wendy’s was a treat. I remember going to a Wendy’s in Durham, NC with my family after church. They had the old timey tables made to look like old newspapers, and they had old timey font everywhere, and a cash register that had a little chute where the change came out into a dish. That was back when square hamburgers really seemed like an innovation.
When she handed me the frosty she said, “Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said.”
“Oh, I didn’t want a lid,” I said.
“We have to put a lid on it,” she said. “It’s a rule.”
“Ok. It’s just nice if it has a –” And then I made a little upward-drawing motion with my hand to indicate a swirl.
“Yeah, I get it,” she said. “No swirls anymore. You have to have a lid.” “But here.” She handed me a coupon book.
“That’s good for five free Junior Frostys. You finish that frosty, come back and I’ll give you another one, on the house. In fact, I’ll give you free Junior Frostys all day if you want.”
This caused her to laugh, and several other people in the Wendy’s to laugh too. I laughed too, thanking her.
I put the coupons in my pocket. I took the lid off of my frosty, carefully, so I didn’t get my hand sticky. I put the spoon in. It was thick. I tasted it. It was sweet, cold, slightly granular in texture. Chocolate. It’s got a distinctive flavor. Wendy’s might have gone downhill, but they still have the frosty. Unchanged, tastes just like that Sunday after church in Durham.
I walked outside. It was still grey-white. The sky, the sidewalk, even the remains of my frosty were grey-white in the cup. I was grey-white too.
People were walking by in a daze. Hustling strangers, some going this way, some going that.
I threw away the cup and started walking.