When your husband casts you out for skulking around the flat for too many hours in a row, mumbling expletives under your breath and looking at the dog menacingly, you stand facing the door while it snicks closed. You just stand there like a dummy. You replay in your mind the way he smiled almost apologetically while he did it– gently closed the door. The way he wouldn’t look at you fully and hid the grimace that threatens to overtake his face every time he sees you in your Harvard hoodie. He knows what it means: the writing isn’t going well. He’s saving you from yourself. No, he’s saving your marriage. Better, he’s saving you from living with the new, unsettling impression he’s forming of you: angry female writer on the edge. He’s saving the dog.

After a moment you pound on the closed door because you’ve tried opening it and it’s locked–he locked it, and because it’s raining and you’re only wearing the Harvard hoodie and because you don’t have your purse. You don’t really need your purse but there’s a joint in it that some friend-of-a-friend left at your last book club meeting, and if you’re going to be exiled, you want to be really stoned also. The pounding gets your husband’s attention. You tell him what you need when he comes to the door. You tell him through the crack like you’re some college punk from Greenpeace, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or the Census Bureau. He actually locks the door again before going to retrieve your things. He forgets to bring you your coat. He also conveniently forgets your laptop.

But now you have the joint and seventeen dollars. Stellar.

There’s a lot you can do with seventeen dollars. You can walk up the street and buy an umbrella from the store because it’s raining and no one thought to offer you one as you left. The purchase would feel akin to spending seventeen dollars on toothpaste, or clearing out overdue library book fees. Buying seventeen erasers. The spending directive is tabled until after you smoke your jay. You’ll think of something awesome to spend it on then, you’re sure.

And heyhey: looks like your hoodie is lucky after all. How about that! You might have just said out loud, pulling it up over your head and giving the cords a loving tug.

Down the alley is the perfect little cubby for smoking; it’s where you and Kate go to smoke whenever she comes over because your husband gives you two the stink eye if you do it in the house. He thinks you’re corrupting the dog. Kate can’t come all that often anymore, but she brings weed every time. A tiny roof joins two separate garages a few doors down, creating a deep alcove partially blinded by a mature lilac bush. No one can see you standing behind it and it smells heavenly.

Stoned now, you think that going to the library isn’t a terrible plan; you just won’t check anything out today. On days like this one the library exists for you, doesn’t it? The library is a boat in the harbor waiting only for your arrival. It departs the moment you cross the threshold and as long as you keep moving through the labyrinth of shelves, no one can see you. The doors at the entrance of the library are heavy and imposing. You’d like it if they’d ask you for the password when you entered. You know the password. You’d know it if the time came. The librarian at the circulation desk sees the exact amount of your fines flashing over your head as you pass her. It’s one of the things they taught her to do in librarian school. You avoid making eye contact and move stealthily toward Fiction Ka-Lo and Lo-Mc. You pluck out anything that looks contemporary or obscure but nothing holds your interest because you are stoned and suddenly, urgently, have to pee.

After you pee you find Samuel Beckett in the Ba-Bu’s. He makes you feel better about your temporarily cracked mental state. At least yours is only temporary, poor guy. You wonder if anyone ever pushed Beckett out of his own front door. Probably not––women make better muses than men. His muse probably sat naked in the corner of his writing hovel and got blindingly yet quietly drunk. When the writing didn’t go well, she probably sensed it and came over to stand between Beckett and his typewriter, naked. He probably lifted her up by her thighs, set her down on the keys, and fucked his way through the writer’s block. It probably looked like this when they were finished:

hhhhhhLLLGGrrrrttyd**^MMMMmmmmmKKsstredFuckfuckfuckooooooooooooooonbbnbbbnnnbbbfuck. Probably.

Back in the lobby you move, eyes averted, past the hawkish librarian who can see through you. In your periphery it looks like she begins rising from her cushy seat when she sees you. You throw open that huge door like it weighs nothing and break through to the drizzly outside like breaking the surface of water after a deep dive. You take a deep breath. You smell doughnuts. The scent in the air is so thick you can taste the golden grease in the back of your throat. Doughnuts are what you will spend part of your seventeen dollars on. Brilliant.

The Magic Oven Bakery has a sleigh bell over the front door that startles you when it rings out because you are still really high and weren’t expecting it. The guy behind the counter looks stoned too. You ask him for a loaf of raisin rye and a blueberry filled. The loaf he hands you, the doughnut he doesn’t. All out, he says.

But you could smell them frying all the way across town, you say.

Tough, he says: those are for tomorrow.

Just one? you ask. And then you attempt to look at him coyly; you attempt to bat your eyelashes. Our little secret? Flutterbatflutter, bat bat.

No way, José.

When was the last time someone said No way, José to you? You must have been seven. It has the same effect now as it did then. You start to cry almost immediately. It feels really, really good, like giving your eyeballs a bath. You don’t even care that your grandma told you never to cry in public––exposes you to germs. You’re a smart cookie. You know now that tears are sterile, pure as salty holy water.

José! This from a hulking man who just then comes through the swinging kitchen door to hover over your doughnut nemesis behind the display case.

Yeah, boss? says José.

Your name is José? But you’re not really asking. You just want him to know that you’re onto his little game. You want him to know how tacky and insecure you think it is to say one’s own name gratuitously.

José! Why you make this sweet girl cry? Val fangul! Get outta here! Beat it! Scram!

José must know what’s coming because of the way he puts his hands protectively over his rear as he turns from the boss and heads out through the swinging door. The boss promptly kicks José in the ass, leaving a crisp, gray shoeprint on the seat of José’s white uniform pants.

So sorry, my sweet, says the hulking baker. You dry your eyes on the sleeve of your beloved hoodie and look up across the counter to see that he’s holding a rose made of royal icing out to you. It’s pink. Like a parlor trick you’ve practiced in secret for years, you blush the same color. Not to be outdone, when you reach for the rose it suddenly disappears. Poof!

Where did it go? says the baker. When he comes around the counter and pulls it from behind your ear you laugh. He puts his hand on your shoulder and the rose in the palm of your hand.

Come with me. Come right this way. Best seat in the house, and we’ve been saving it just for you. His eyes look sparkly but still you resist. A little.

Come, come. Don’t worry, says the baker.

He holds open the swinging kitchen door and ushers you through with such fanfare and flourish, you feel like there should be a velvet rope and possibly a red carpet rolled out. You feel like a Magic Oven Bakery VIP.

The baker has large hands but his fingers are slender and floury. He brushes the seat of a stool and instructs you to sit. Under the bright kitchen lights you can see that he is younger than you’d originally assumed. He is covered in a delicate dusting of something, possibly flour, possibly powdered sugar. You want to know which. You want to taste him.

Now. Why such a pretty thing make all these many tears in my bakery?

It comes out in a gush: José said I couldn’t have a blueberry filled doughnut. He said No way, José. The way he said it made me sad. I don’t know. Maybe I just needed a good cry.

No such thing, says the baker. His hair is pulled back in a knot high up on his head. Little tendrils have escaped behind his ears and at the nape of his neck. A good cry? No such thing. I think you cry ‘cause you need a little sweet to make it all better, and maybe a hug too. You are an artist…a writer?

How did you…?

He takes your left hand and turns it palm up. There is blue ink between your index and middle finger and also smudged along the outside edge of your hand. Oh. He spins your wedding ring and looks at you knowingly. Oh.

I write too! Now he’s pulling you by your inky hand from the stool.

I write too. I show you. Come!

At the back of the kitchen is a stainless steel walk-in refrigerator. Every shelf is packed with cakes. He takes a small, round, blue one from the shelf: Happy Birthday Joshua! it says in scrolling green script. See? The baker winks at you when he says it.

He is charming, isn’t he? He’s got it down. He’s got your number. You like it very much, being in this small space with him.

Blueberry filled, you say? I wouldn’t take you for the type.

Yes, you nod. But you’re suddenly sheepish. He is a baker but he is also a man–an attractive and charming man, no less. You don’t really want him knowing that you eat doughnuts when you’re sad.

How about instead, I offer you the specialty?

Okay! you imbue your voice with many! many! exclamation points!!!!

Okay. Stay right there. Don’t move. He pins you with his eyes for a moment before turning away. He wants to be sure you won’t flee. He could ask you to undress and roll in Bavarian cream. You’d do it.

Just before the baker returns, the florescent lights blink out overhead and music starts mewling softly from some undisclosed source. You know that song. He’s put on Solomon Burke’s, Cry To Me. Oh my gosh, this man wants to love on you. He wants to undress you and pivot you on his thigh the way Patrick Swayze does with Jennifer Gray in Dirty Dancing. Yes, he does.

He’s holding two demitasses full of espresso so rich you can smell them long before you see them. On top of his head a tiny plate is precariously balanced. Maybe he does this all the time, maybe the bun facilitates the balancing. You laugh.

I like when you laugh, he says.

You laugh some more. He’s brought the plate on his head to rest in front of you and you take it and whatever it is on this plate, you have never seen anything as beautiful.

Buchette delice, this is called, he says.

Yes, please, you say.

What you have in front of you now, it is the epitome of dark chocolate perfection, the apex of butter cream wonderment. Your mother cannot make this, and she is French, and she enjoys baking. To make this took something beyond even maternal love. It took a little magic. First is the velvety layer of chocolate cake, upon which rests a praline butter cream so airy, it might be made of whipped fairy wishes. Shiny-smooth ganache suffocates cake and cream alike. Crowing the confectionary masterpiece is a rosette of butter cream you feel nearly sexual toward. You restrain yourself from bending over and probing it with your tongue as if it were a nipple. When you bite into the buchette delice, you make a noise you’ve never made in public. And the baker leans in and says:

Mangiare bene, piccola scrittice.

Which makes you follow up the first bedroom noise with a second. He could be telling you you’ve got frosting on your nose. Oh, well. Whatever. Say it again, baker.

A new song comes on. Sam Cooke’s, A Change is Gonna Come.

You ask your first question (you’re a scrittice after all) questions are your bread and butter.

1. What is your name?

Augustus, but you can call me Favio.

2. Why call you something so different?

Ah, little writer! Is sexy, yes? Don’t you think? Listen: Faaaviooo.

You think you’ll call him August.

3. Why have I never seen this out front? you speak through the miracle unfolding in your mouth, pointing to it with your fork though it feels slightly sacrilegious to do so.

This is French pastry.

4. And?

And… this is an Italian bakery. Only girls who cry get buchette delice.


He follows this up with: And only the pretty ones to boot!

Double “!!”

When you throw your head back and laugh he bites your neck, lightly. His hand is holding your hair behind your ear and neck and he is kissing you and ohmyohmyoh. You should go. You should go. You should go but you’re not going.

You say his name: Augustus. You say his sexy name: Favio. Faaaviooo. His hair smells like star anise. And when his finger slips into your mouth, it is sweet. So it is powdered sugar then, not flour. You’re happy to have that settled. And you’re just plain happy. And outside–where you go once you finally gather your strength, your will, and your heart up around you–it has stopped raining. You’ve stopped being stoned. You feel amicably toward the dog again. You take the long way home.