My friend Hassan is a really cool guy, but there’s always been something a little weird about him, not in a bad way, just kind of off. I’m sounding like a jerk now, because really, I guess there’s something a little weird about everybody. I know I get more than a little weird, like about sharing food, or trying to make everything into a race.
But Hassan, I guess if I had to try to define what makes him a little weird, and again, it really is just a little bit weird, like I still love hanging out with him and everything, but yeah, I’d say that he’s a little defensive. Maybe not defensive, but secretive. Not secretive exactly, not about everything, but just a little secretive, like he’s got a little secret, and he’s constantly on the defense that somebody might find it out.
And that’s exactly what it turned out to be, a little secret, and I found it out. He has a really hi-tech ice cube. It looks like a regular ice cube, exactly like a regular ice cube, but this one never melts. That’s crazy right? It doesn’t make any sense. But that’s how it works, Hassan puts this ice cube into a warm drink, a room temperature drink, whatever, and it acts just like a regular ice cube, that is, it slowly makes the drink colder. But it doesn’t ever melt, not even a little bit. And eventually the drink gets ice cold, and then he drinks his drink and takes the ice cube out of the cup at the end.
That’s how I figured it out, finally. One time we were all at McDonald’s, everyone had his or her own tray, of course I made lunch into a race, that’s because, like I already said, it’s one of my character defects, I turn everything into a race, and even though nobody else was racing, I made a big show of standing up first to bring my tray to the garbage.
“And let me help you out there, Hassan,” I said as I made a move for Hassan’s tray. There was still food on it. I wasn’t actually going to take it. That was going to be the joke, like I’d attempt to pick up the tray, he’d act surprised, and then I’d say something like, “What? You’re still eating? Oh man, my bad Hassan, I forget that not everybody eats as fast as I do.”
Only, I didn’t have the chance to go through my whole routine, because right as I picked up his tray, his mostly empty soda cup tipped, falling over the side. Before it hit the ground, Hassan made a really dramatic jump out of his chair, “My ice cube!” he shouted out a little too loudly as he dove to the ground.
I thought to myself, ice cube? “Hassan, what are you talking about?” I started peppering him with questions as he picked up a lone ice cube that had fallen out of the cup.
“Nothing. Leave me alone,” he got up and marched to the bathroom. But I knew something was up, and so I followed him in. Not right away, of course, but after like fifteen seconds. And there he was, Hassan, at the bathroom sink, holding this ice cube under the faucet, almost like he was washing it off.
“Hassan, I just came in to apologize,” I said as a means of explaining why I’d followed him into the bathroom. But now that I was in, I couldn’t contain my curiosity, “Why are you washing that ice cube?”
And remember how I was saying earlier that Hassan was just slightly secretive and defensive? Well now he was really secretive and defensive. “Mind your own business! Leave me alone!” he was almost screaming. And then he pushed me out of the way and ran out of the bathroom. I followed him out, but now he was sprinting, into the parking lot, into his car, and he was off.
So the next day I stopped by his place, again, I had one of these starter, “Hey man, sorry about yesterday,” questions to kind of make it look like I was trying to be a nice guy. But then it was right back to the ice cube questions. “What was the deal with that ice cube? Why did you dive out of the seat so dramatically? What were you trying to do washing it off in the sink?”
And maybe he realized that I was just never going to let this go, and so he told me to come inside.
“Listen Rob,” he sat me down, “I need you to promise me that you’ll never tell anybody about this. Ever.”
And I said, “Never tell anybody about what?”
“I can’t tell you until you promise.”
“Well I can’t promise until you tell me. What if it turns out to be something that I’m morally obligated not to keep to myself?”
“It’s not, trust me.”
“I do trust you. But I can’t make that promise.”
“Then I can’t tell you.”
“Well then I’m just going to keep asking you questions. I already know that you have a crazy secret that you’re at least considering telling me. You might as well tell me. I can’t promise I won’t tell, but as long as it’s nothing insane, or evil or whatever, I’m pretty sure that I won’t have a big deal making that promise afterward.”
And he thought about it for a minute, and then he said, “OK, fine.” And then he opened up his hand, and inside he had this ice cube.
“Another ice cube?” I asked him.
“No,” he put the ice cube in my hand. “It’s the same ice cube.”
“The same ice cube, but that’s impossible.”
“It’s not impossible. Don’t you feel it yet?”
And yeah, I’d been holding it for like thirty seconds so far, and there was no wet sensation. It was definitely ice cold, but so far this thing hadn’t started to melt.
“No fucking way,” I said as I instinctively moved to put it in my mouth.
“What are you doing? What the hell man?” Hassan snatched the ice cube out of my hand before I actually put it in.
“Sorry, I don’t know why I did that. I just thought … well, have you ever put it in your mouth? Does it melt? Does it feel good? Where did you get it from? Can I have one too?”
And I could see this look in Hassan’s face, like he was watching the start of what could only be the tip of an iceberg of questions, like shit, I shouldn’t have told him, he’s never going to leave me alone with this.
Finally, he started speaking, “No, you can’t have one. As far as I know, this is only one that exists. My grandfather was a great scientist. He worked at some secret military lab that focused almost entirely on experimental research and development. Maybe he wasn’t allowed to, but he never talked to my father about his work. And then one day he brought home this ice cube. He gave it to my father like it was a toy, like here you go son, enjoy this magical ice cube for a while.”
“So if you break a piece of it off, will it …?”
“Rob, hold on, I’m not done yet. So my father didn’t know what to make of it. What was he supposed to do with it? His father gave him the ice cube, and then his mother, my grandmother, called to my grandfather from the kitchen, she was cooking dinner, and she was out of milk, and she needed it now, and so my grandfather said, ‘OK honey,’ and he looked at my father and said, ‘Now just hold on to that ice cube for a minute, and I’ll take it back when I’m home. Just be careful with it, OK?’”
“So is it made out of water? Like, if you drop it into a glass of water and then put that glass in the freezer, and then you melt that frozen glass, will the whole thing be frozen, or will only the outside part …?”
“Come on man, just stay with me for a second here. So my grandfather goes out to do this errand, but on his way to the grocery store, he’s in a terrible accident. A truck lost control and barreled right into my grandfather’s car, killing him instantly. They went through all of the arrangements, the funeral, everything. After he was in the ground, my grandmother sold the house and moved back to Queens to be closer to her family.”
“And your dad still had the ice cube?”
“That’s exactly it. My dad still had the ice cube. And right before he died, he gave it to me.”
“So you never figured out where it came from? Nobody from that military lab every came around looking for it?”
“Never. He never knew what to make of it. He was an accountant. And I don’t know anything about science either. So I don’t know, I just keep it with me, I use it to keep my drinks cold. I figure I might as well use it. But it’s like a secret family heirloom. I just can’t believe that you knocked over that cup. I’ve kept this thing hidden for ten years now, and it’s ruined. So what do you say, do you promise not to tell anybody?”
“Well, I don’t know. Have you ever tried that thing I was telling you about before? Dropping it into a glass of water and then freezing the glass and then letting it melt?”
“No, I’ve never done that Rob.”
“Well, aren’t you curious to see what would happen?”
“I’m really not, actually, I’m just a little protective of it. Could we not?”
“Look, if you want me to promise, just do this one little experiment.”
“And then you’ll promise?”
“Yeah, but only if, if the whole cup of ice winds up turning into that super ice, you have to give me a little piece.”
So we did it, we put the ice into a glass of water, we put that glass into the freezer, and we waited a couple of hours. When we came back, the whole glass was now frozen, so we took it out and left it on the counter to see if it would melt.
And yeah, right away a little puddle started forming underneath, so obviously the water was melting. I was a little disappointed, obviously, I had already started making plans of what I was going to do with my share of the ice. I was definitely going to make more ice, and then maybe I’d start selling some, I don’t know, I hadn’t thought it through that far, but I definitely knew that I was going to want to do more with it than just carry it around and use it on McDonald’s fountain soda.
But then Hassan started freaking out. He held the block of ice under the warm water tap in the kitchen, I guess he was a little anxious to get his precious one-of-a-kind cube back. Only, when he got to the middle, to where his cube was supposed to be, there was nothing. The whole thing just kept melting, until it was all gone, just water, no ice cube.
“What the hell Rob? It’s gone! It melted! What the fuck?”
And yeah, I felt really bad there, Hassan looked like he was going to cry. I didn’t know what to say. So I just told him, “OK Hassan, I’m really, really sorry. And yeah, I promise I’ll never tell anybody about your grandfather’s ice cube. Not a soul. I promise.”