It was a little after 8 pm on a windy fall night the first time I saw what happens after we die.
Washtenaw Ave was oddly quiet as I crossed the three-way intersection at Cornell. I’m careful not to slip on the wet leaves littered around, though not doing such a great job; the tan soles on my brown canvas Nike lows have seen more traction rich days.
Still, without incident, I make it safely across the street. Suddenly, my life is flashing before my eyes.
It came out of nowhere - sweet, buttery and yeasty with notes of vanilla and fresh hot oil, an olfactory onslaught like none other. It hit me harder than the student loan repayments that awaited me in a couple years.
My body went limp, yet the gravity was insurmountable. Something I lamented, as I crashed through the glass of door.
My body laid on the cold orange tile floor, still and lifeless. I floated above watching as kind, smiling faces topped with golden glazed halos greeted me. The sign above them reads “Dom’s Bakeries.” I stare in disbelief thinking I’d sure found myself in heaven.
I’m not a religious man, but, that’s the closest I’ve ever come.
It took about 3 years of living in Ypsi before I got around to visiting Dom’s. I’d been regaled with tales of their life-altering puffy dough art, but I was super depressed and didn’t even bother to get out of bed that often. When I finally take my pilgrimage to Mecca, I luck up – arriving just minutes after that night’s batch of original glazed hit the shelves.
There’s no way I’m leaving the store without a bunch of those buttery bitches. Still, this being my first time, it’s imperative I try a decent variety of their amazing offerings. It’s just that choosing is tough at Dom’s. Brightly light by bright white fluorescent lighting in a glass case, the donuts glisten like gems seducing you to take them home.
“Eenie, meenie, miney, oh well I guess I have to buy a whole dozen,” I rationalize. “This is such a rare opportunity.”
The roster narrows to four original glazed, two jelly-filled (lemon, raspberry), one glazed twist, two cinnamon rolls, one chocolate cake with sprinkles and two long johns. My squad is clearly better than yours.
The cashier, a twenty-ish Asian-American woman in a red t-shirt, picks each one with purpose before presenting me with a plain white box. These pastry magicians know that bragging is for your supporters. Still, it seems somewhat shameful to house golden rings fit for Sonic in such an inconspicuous container.
Though surrounded by these marvels all day, cashier still understood my bubbly delight and got me on my way in less than a minute. It seems improbable, but in less than five minutes for about $9, I bought freshly fried happiness.
Prize in hand, I pivot on my heel and rush to take the nearest seat. The box pops a squat on the table and poses seductively while I grab my phone and take a shot for the Gram.
Formalities completed, I can no longer delay. I pensively stretch my hand closer to my precious. The air radiated with heat and moisture as my fingertips inched forward.
Steam is probably the only thing that would want to escape these promise rings of flavor. I for one can’t wait one more moment to be trapped in their doughy embrace.
Slick and sticky, the glaze is still liquid and slides under my fingertips as I grab hold. I grasp firmer, close my eyes, guide it slowly past my quivering lips, anxious teeth and finally landing on my tongue.
I can hold back no longer; mastication is nigh.
I bite down. It makes a bit of a mess – then again, most of the best things in life do. In my mouth, the sweet cloud practically dissolved into a saccharin glutinous puddle.
I am one with the dough as I fall through time and space. Only inky infinite blackness on all sides, but I could feel electricity whipping wildly around me, flowing in waves like the colors of the wind. In my ears, there’s nothing, but a solid, zen hum of ice boxes chilling the milk I will definitely purchase momentarily.
Opening my eyes, I’m brought back to Earth – feet on the ground and my heart beating as if it wants to escape directly through my sternum. I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the window; there’s beads of sweat peppering my forehead and a twisted grin sits in place of my normal scowl.
I swallow the first bite and can’t escape the feeling everything is going to be alright. I venture forward, completely devouring my first victim and another.
Soon, I’m satiated and drained. I could really go for a cigarette and a nap. So, I gather my things and prepare to head back out into the pitch black night.
As I head towards the door, the cashier calls out, wishing me a good night. I stop midstride and turn to see her waving cheerfully. Having lost myself in the ecstasy of sweet nothings, I’d forgotten there was anyone else in the world. So, it kind of scared the crap out of me.
I replied sheepishly, open the door and make the prideful trek back to my overpriced apartment. Plopping down on my blue canvas sofa, I realize I’ve made and enormous mistake; I never bought that milk and I regret it to this day.