Summer of ’22

On a normal day of uninspiring June, a blast of dissolving salted caramel magic in my mouth flung me into another dimension from which I might never escape. Turning a blind eye to all the timeless beauty moms and their squabbling toddlers, I threw myself into an obvious discussions of summer jobs among my friends. Against all fancy preferences, the idea of an ice cream lady with cute aprons in a little food booth sounded perfect to me. I wasn’t ready for what I signed up for. My own sweet self has never owned a hairbrush and my unglamorous self will never be neat enough to work in a 4-star hotel like my friends do. I would rather enjoy the little liberty I get from this job than get into uncomfortable tuxedos and waist coats, I thought.

Summer approached in a flash and people grew increasingly naked on the beach. I found myself being a slave of the British government (yet again), only this time, by choice. A Seafront Catering Assistant in a cubicle kiosk by the beach of a little town in Dorset. It is a dream. The term ‘Introverted Hospitality’ changed for me in a day. Formal service with a new accent and the constant smile while your legs undergo throbbing pain, that was it. Unlatching, setting up, serving, stocking up, cleaning and walking home with a considerably expensive mocha, crossing the lower gardens, dodging dogs was summer all about.

I’ve stared out the same window at the same sea a million times and yet I felt new each day. A new customer with a new infant, sometimes fiancée or a dog, smiled as they ordered their ice cream and a bo -uh-o-wa-uh. I’ve seen all kinds of customers. I have been called a bitch by a customer whom I didn’t serve and deprived his little doggie of the ice-cream as well. Now the issue with a foggy brain is that it never let such episodes dismiss from mind. So I remember. Well, I wish dogs could choose their Masters because they are wiser, I believe.

I also believed myself to be the protagonist of this chapter, of this book until I realized, I wasn’t. I was not close to being the Confidant, either. There were characters I had never met and would never see, after this. It felt like a one-time thing. No prospectus, no acknowledgements. But it did come with a copyright page! Well, to be fair, the whole idea of the characters revolved around my idea of them, being themselves Romanians walked around with broken English, heavy pockets, and beautiful wives. They’re bolder with sharp haircuts and gelled beards. The Neat guys, as I like to call them. Arabic men spared smiles but came in with sharp looks, strong fragrance and their teeny-weeny jukeboxes. They are characters with flaws and humour and yet I’d ask them their ‘ittar’ preferences. Who else would you talk to about the Bakhoor ritual?. Anyway, Indonesians and Vietnamese, carried their shy selves and cared to greet with the widest smile possible, spent 4.20 on a scoop of vanilla and made sure they asked for the receipts. I wondered if they’d ever invite me to their sweet community house!. Indian guys with their Polish wives walked in with lengthy orders and voracious appetite. The Spanish got through immigration with low English academic attainment, as everyone perceived; picked through their little lunch bags at the beach and stared at the ice cream flavors long enough to make the right choice. Koreans, oh, them, they approached with their cute little tote bags, extraordinary overcoats and flawless skins and went in for the whippy ones. Whippy with a flake, or two. They deserve club cards for whippies, if existed. Pakistanis are funny people. They hesitantly dive into political conversations and confirm your nationality before they do so. While British Indians were just being themselves I kept asking, ‘Is that accent of yours, real?’ They didn’t care to ask what I meant. As long as they sang the chorus to ‘Temporary Pyaar’ along with me, I was good. Anyway, I wish I could pass the queue only to get to the Muslim Women, from wherever, I didn’t care. They are a sight to the sore eyes. I’d hold my farts for them. I did stare at them for too long. And lastly, the Palm Oil gang, My favorites’, The sassy Africans, walked in looking vibrant, fresh and ready to crack a joke and throw back their heads in laughter. They are witty and smart and well, my favorites’. Busting a groove right before a queue of 150 people is something only they can dare to do. One wouldn’t leave without mocking the Marshmallow flavor and its silly existence. The expression of loathing didn’t escape the moment and I’m glad it didn’t.

I wish I met more Bulgarians, Afghans, Iranians, Turks, Chinese, Americans, Kurds and Australians. More people from Kazakh, maybe. I find them cute and the best fits for a perfect beach photograph. Just a heads up, A debate on how ethnically diverse their home country is, can be the greatest debate of all times. Boasting about their Arasan Baths and Apples, they often forgot to order their highly preferred herbal teas at Joseph’s. With similar choices, stepped in British Grannies, with styled hair under their faded sun hats, precise intonation, and warmth. They love extended conversations and takeaway British Tea, “Semi skimmed milk with no sugar” they ordered. If my memory serves me long enough, I would never forget this old couple who had flown all the way from Australia, had a beach hut booked for a week right beside Josephs. Two single scoops of Mint chocolate and Banana Split, I’ll never forget. I thought of them to be ravished in a way I found touching and hopeless. After I handed them a printed greeting card on their last day in Bournemouth, the old lady shared a hug with me and Ajoba. I’ve learnt, old people hate small talks and have all the time in the world for us and our silly chatter. I would never want to lose them to anything.

I have been careless and naïve, with my ideas, notions, perceptions and patience, with my silence, dreams, stories and agony but here, by the beach, for 8 long months, I have been in my truest form. This place has been weaving a memoir, for me, through me and made it a paradise of art. Another Day, Another Night, The Summer has gone by. And I still think of them-all the characters, I will never see again.

My mind needs tidying. For the next summer approaching.


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