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This article is taken from PN Review 246, Volume 45 Number 4, March - April 2019.

Vanilla Ice Angela Leighton
A SOUR-FACED WOMAN passed me my ice cream. Its white dome rose, compact and crisp over the rim of the cone. I had queued half an hour for it in the gathering dusk, but the pleasure of paying with pesos for the first time made the wait worthwhile. The woman accepted my note in surly silence and returned a considerable quantity of change. I dropped it in my pocket and grasped my prize. This first transaction in the local currency had bought me this cheap, innocent pleasure, as well as a taste of being part of the crowd.

Coppelia’s ice cream parlour was thronged with people in the early evening. Schoolgirls stood chattering in noisy groups, women in tight jeans ambled arm in arm, and cautious, polite lovers sat side by side in the leafy alcoves that seemed purposefully set apart for them. The lights had turned the greenery of the trees to a strange, luminous aquamarine, giving them the look of an amateur stage set. Everyone in this play had an ice cream. White, pink, green or multi-coloured, they were carried like candles in a slow, roundabout procession along the paths, a sweet blessing in the warmth of the evening. My vanilla ice was the first thing I’d bought in Havana that had not cost me the embarrassment of being treated as a foreigner. My daiquiri in the hotel, my lunch in the Bodeguita del Medio, even a small cup of coffee in the Plaza de Armas, had elicited from my hosts the rude insistence that I pay, ...

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