The Carvel Store This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 10, 2012
The Carvel store in Chinatown was the reason I would go shopping on those Sunday mornings. My father was the shopper in my family, so he, my sister and I would go on these frequent outings. We would get up early and take the subway down to Canal Street. The ride always seemed like an eternity. As I sat there, my father would fall asleep and I would watch all the people get on and off.

We set out to buy the freshest vegetables at the cheapest prices. Being young, I didn’t quite understand why a bargain was so important, but now that I’m a big shopper, it’s quite exhilarating to buy spinach at 29¢ a pound. We’d buy dried squid, red pepper flakes and the honey sesame candy that we would eat on the way home.

I remember the streets always smelled of dampness, fresh fish and fried dumplings. The sidewalks would be filled with people, just like us, scouting the stores, buying the food we couldn’t buy at the A&P. They looked just like us, the same small Asian families, but it seemed odd that these people who looked similar had to communicate with my father in broken English and body language. They seemed familiar, but at the same time, were strangers.

We stopped at various produce stands, and always ended up with bushels of vegetables, crammed in red plastic bags. It looked as though the plastic rims were sprouting lush, green gardens.

When the mornings became hot and sticky, it seemed as though twice as many people came out to hound the shops. I would be smushed in the traffic, as everyone paused to gaze at the food stands. I would grab hold for my father’s free pinky, which seemed to be the perfect size of my hand, and cling to my sister.

Then somewhere on the sidewalk, I’d spot the Carvel store which seemed like a safe haven. With all my might, I would pray we would go past the shop, just to get a peek inside, or maybe be blessed with a sugar cone topped with a piece of cool delicious heaven. I would try to bring my father around there and relay telepathic messages. If we didn’t get near the shop, my day was ruined and I would curse all the kids in there for eating my ice-cream. If it was a truly great day, my father would make his way to the shop. He would open the door and I could smell the combination of sweet ice cream and the airy refrigerator fumes. I would feel the cool chill, hear the hum of the machines, and see the thin Chinese man with the paper hat behind the glass triangular counter. My father usually ordered, but when he gave me the honor, I would be in pure delight. Sometimes he’d bend down and take a lick, but I didn’t mind because it seemed like he was having fun too.

The last time I was in Chinatown with my father was six years ago. I noticed my Carvel store wasn’t there; it was replaced by a bank. Maybe it was around that time I started fighting with my father, or maybe it was when I stopped holding his hand. My life with him seems to be held together with safety pins and bandages to cover up hurtful words and suffering feelings. Now, we exchange simple greetings and quick phrases. We live in separate worlds. I’m trying to move on, and he is trying to relive the past.

My store was gone, just like so many other things in life that are said and done and other things in life are left unsaid and undone. Perhaps these are my fondest memories, or maybe they have yet to happen. Maybe the uncomfortable silences and polite smiles will cease, or perhaps it’s just a cross I’ll have to bear during my life with him. Or maybe, there could be another Carvel store out there that I have yet to discover.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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