Apart From Love — this story is told by two of its characters: Ben, a twenty-seven years old student, and Anita, a plain-spoken, spunky, uneducated redhead, freshly married to Lenny, his aging father. Behind his back, Ben and Anita find themselves increasingly drawn to each other. They take turns using an old tape recorder to express their most intimate thoughts, not realizing at first that their voices are being captured by him.
Meanwhile, Lenny keeps a secret from both of them: his ex-wife, Ben’s mother, a talented pianist, has been stricken with an early-onset alzheimer. Taking care of her gradually weighs him down.
What emerges in these characters is a struggle, a desperate, daring struggle to find a path out of conflicts, out of isolation, from guilt to forgiveness.
He was standing out there, on the other side of the pier. The lights on the Ferris Wheel had just started to come on. They was gleaming there, directly behind him.
Somehow I could spot his outline in the distance, in-between the swirly letters, which I couldn’t read, because from the inside, which was where I was standing, left was right, right was left, flipped into looking kinda foreign, which can really confuse you. But I knew them letters spelled the name of the place. They looked cool, too, like they’re gonna drip and totally melt, floating up there on the pane of glass between us.
It was a hot summer evening, and the place was awful packed. I paced back and forth behind the counter, serving the customers, dishing out fresh smiles, scooping Dutch chocolate here and vanilla there, and trying to get a beat going, trying to sway my hips and at the same time, steady my step over my new, hot pink high heels, which isn’t near as easy as you might think—at least, not on the first try.
After a while I noted that he started pacing just like me, back and forth, and with the same beat, too. I liked the bounce of his step. Right away I thought he was gonna make a fabulous dance partner. And I knew, really I did, it was gonna to be a wild night.
You won’t believe how wild it turned out to be—but in a different way than you might expect, like, an entirely different way. He was so handsome, too, with that slicked-back hair, just like them stars in the old movies!
And like, there was something about his walk, about the way he carried himself, that reminded me of Johnny, mom’s previous boyfriend, the one who confessed to her that he couldn’t get no respect from his wife.
Just like him, Lenny seemed to be in his early forties, and like, he was talking to himself from time to time. I bet he was rehearsing some excuse. Which made me bust out laughing, laughing so hard that my hat—that ice cream uniform hat, made of hard white paper folded in half—nearly flew off my pony tail. I mean, if you find yourself in such a bind, having to come up with one new story after another for the old wife, you might as well just get rid of her, and get yourself a new girl.
The minute our eyes met, I knew what to do: so I stopped in the middle of what I was doing, which was dusting off the glass shield over the ice cream buckets, and stacking up waffle cones here and sugar cones there. From the counter I grabbed a bunch of paper tissues, and bent all the way down, like, to pick something from the floor. Then with a swift, discrete shove, I stuffed the tissues into one side of my bra, then the other, ‘cause I truly believe in having them two scoops—if you know what I mean—roundly and firmly in place.
Having a small chest is no good: men seem to like girls with boobs that bulge out. It seems to make an awful lot of difference, especially at first sight, which you can always tell by them customers, drooling.
I straightened up real fast, and it didn’t take no time for him to come in. I was still serving another customer, some obnoxious woman with, like, three chins. She couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted hot fudge on top or just candy sprinkles, and what kind, what flavor would you say goes well with pistachio nut, and how about them slivered almonds, because they do seem to be such a healthy choice, now really, don’t they.
He came in and stood in line, real patient, right behind her. So now I noted his eyes, which was brown, and his high forehead and the crease, the faint crease right there, in the middle of it, which reminded me all of a sudden of my pa, who left us for good when I was only five, and I never saw him again—but still, from time to time, I think about him and I miss him so.
I could feel Lenny—whose name I didn’t know yet—like, staring at me. It made me hot all over. For a minute there, I could swear he was gonna to ask me how old I was—but he didn’t.
And so, to avoid blushing, I turned to him and I said, boldly, “It’s a crime?”
And he said, “What?”
And I said, “To be sixteen. It’s a crime, you think?”
And he said, “Back in the days when I was young and handsome, that was no crime.”
And I countered with, “Handsome you still are!”
He had no comeback for that, and me, I didn’t have nothing with which I could follow it up. So I asked, “So? What kind of cone for you?” but that woman cut in, ‘cause I was still holding her three-scoops tower of pistachio nut on a sugar cone. And she started to cry out, and like, demand some attention here, because hey, she was first in line and how about whipped cream? Or some of that shredded coconut?
So I smiled at her, in my most cool and polite manner, and squeezed out a big dollop of whipped cream, which was awesome, ‘cause it calmed her down right away.
And I scattered some of them coconut flakes all over—quite a heap—and went even further, adding a cherry on top. At last, I raised the thing to my lips, because at this point, it was starting to drip already.
Then, winking at him, I passed my tongue over the top, and all around the ice cream at the rim of the cone, filling my whole mouth and, just to look sexy, also licking the tips of my fingers. Then I came around the counter, swaying my hips real pretty, and steadying myself over the wobbly high heels. I came right up to him, and before he could guess what kind of trouble I had cooked up in my head, I kissed him—so sweet and so long—on his lips, to the shouts and outcries of the offended customer.
The manager was like, outraged, not only because of this incident—but also because pink shoes wasn’t allowed, no way no how, only black uniform shoes. She grabbed my ice cream hat, that thing made out of white paper, and pulled it right off my head, and threw it to the floor, smashing and crashing it. I was fired right there, on the spot.
He came out right away after me. I bet he figured it was his fault, ‘cause it was over him that I’ve lost my job.
So he said, “Hi. My name is Lenny.”