We stand in line, hands touching but not clasped. The two of us are engulfed in ringing telephones, orders being shouted, and the wafting smell of waffle cones baking and strawberry ice cream in the air. It’s not a tradition yet but it could be, these evening ice cream runs — Anaïs by my side, music blasting through the headphones we share as we wait our turn.

“What flavor are you thinking?” I ask her and smile, already knowing the answer. She always goes for chocolate — it is a true constant in my life.

“I’m thinking fudge… or double chocolate chip?” she muses. 

As we’re approaching the ice cream freezers, a collage of pastels and neons and neutrals, a man spins around to face us. He had been in front of us the whole time, his red hat and plaid shirt blocking our view, but I only register him at that moment as he stares us down.

“Ha! You two are too skinny to be here,” he laughs. I am frozen. My wallet is clutched in my hand, the awaiting ice cream long forgotten as I grab onto Anaïs. I can feel his eyes boring into my skin and undoing the buttons on my shirt as he keeps talking, coming closer until I think I’ll explode. I squeeze Anaïs’s hand, leaving fingernail prints and staying so, so still.

Eventually he leaves. He doesn’t touch us or come any nearer, although I feel as if he did. He gets his strawberry milkshake and walks out the door, seemingly unaware of what he left behind. 

We order our ice cream and wait to pay, while still clutching each other. 

I think we run to the car, although I’m not sure. It feels as if we suddenly manifested there, through magic or teleportation. I lock the cars and turn on the music and look at Anaïs, my ice cream melting in sticky lines onto my hand. I am shaking, my entire body tense with rage and injustice. I hear my cone crack in my fist. What right does this man have to ruin our night? What privilege allows him to talk about us like he owns us? 

I look at Anaïs and sigh. 

“It doesn’t seem fair,” she says. 

“It isn’t.”

It starts to rain as we pull away from the shop, fat raindrops landing on the windshield that swiftly turn into a downpour. We drive slowly home, not speaking but existing together. We live in these feelings together, although I can only know the depth of mine. As we pull into my driveway, the rain gets harder and faster, and I sit fast in my seat. Anaïs looks at me.

“Let’s go,” she says.

“It’s pouring. We’ll get wet. We should just wait it out.”

She rolls her eyes, and grabs my ice cream-y hand. 

“Let’s go!” And this time, I listen to her. We run through the rain, water soaking through our shorts and sneakers, laughing and shouting until we close the door behind us.

We made it.