I picked two: rose and purple. I watched the woman scoop the pastel-colored ice cream from her cart tucked under the awning of a Parisian café.
I handed her francs; she handed me ice cream.
Walking toward Notre Dame, I raised the cone to my lips. And my feet failed. I stood transfixed. I’d eaten the fragrance of a rose. The velvety floral notes overwhelmed me. My senses crossed. Was I tasting, was I smelling?
I’d had ice cream every day for over a month while backpacking through Europe—it was my timekeeper. But this was different.
I finished the cone and returned to the cart. This time I bought a triple.
In three days I visited the ice cream lady five times. I tried everything: licorice, vine peach, honey, tangerine, caramel—I even tried open gutter, apparently a poor translation of black currant—but at least one of my scoops was always rose.
Sometimes reality shatters my expectations. The impact leaves traces of wonder impressed so profoundly I still sense them years later.
I thought I knew ice cream—until Paris. One bite. One bite and more than a decade later I can’t forget . . . the color, the smell, the taste.
But the imprints aren’t always so pleasant. Preconceptions don’t always crack and crumble from delight. Sometimes it isn’t ice cream. Sometimes it’s a moment that changes life as I thought I knew it. And an outline of pain remains. I feel the shrapnel of splintered hope and fractured failure embedded deep within me.
Something has to give when my assumptions don’t align with truth. In the wake of unrealistic expectations crashing down and in the strain of the bar ratcheting higher when I expected too little—in both moments—damage is done.
But once the shock of arriving wears off, reality is richer then I can imagine. Through the pain or joy I see true. It reawakens my senses. It reengages me with beauty.
It reminds me the artist can turn a flower into ice cream.