The Pastry Crucible
My first attempt at short story.
If you’ve ever studied torture, you know it’s the simplest of things that ruin a man’s spirit. Drops of water, a cold floor, not enough room to sleep through a good night; but to me, and any other homeless wanderer out there, you start to forget that there’s any other way of life. We are the pigs wallowing in shit, wondering why our two-legged brothers insist on beds and excessive comforts. Walking past “Le Petit Monsieur” Bakery I am once again reminded which side of the looking glass I am suited to live.
The whiffs of confection sugar pierced me long before I crossed the shop’s penitentiary doors; I knew it was early, the time of day for coffee cakes and danishes–once a weekly treat when I resembled a more conventional man, a man at all. Poised on porcelain plates of pain they rise and remain above me, beyond me. Had I not just scrounged last night’s falafel from a 57th street green can buffet I may have even been hungry enough to want one. If I had the means of procurement, I may have even taken it just as a symbol of insignificant victory.
On the lower racks, yet to be discarded is last night’s gang of cupcakes. Another reminder of life when I walked upright, when I changed clothes and even owned a place to change into them. Their pink, marigold and baby blue frostings sting of colors far removed from my optical palette–snowflakes floating into the hell of an urban street, doomed to soil at the first mere touch of a tainted inhabitant. The intensity of their sweetness would probably further inflame my diabetic nightmare.
In the event that I still had a life to celebrate, a birthday to commemorate, this is the kind of place I would want to go. My bitterness aside, its bitter-sweet existence compels me to tap my human reservoir, to accept my circumstance and realize that these pastries of pain are only reminders of not what I chose not to have, but what I chose to lose. Instead, I sought a life subsisted from a higher carbohydrate molecule, so simple a chemical change, so profound a result.
There was a time when the bakery could have even been mine. Its diligent and deft workers, answering to my command. Now I stand a broken man, arguably, looking through a glass reminder of a life I once lived, overshadowed by the reflection of what I have become. In the purgatory in between our two worlds, a cupcake, an eclair can dually serve as the object of hopeful sanctuary or the stone-engraved death sentence of a life’s failure and the price to pay. I walk on, awaiting my next crucible of shame.