posted by ebean
Ugh — Will Ferrell. I might be a bad person or have some sort of personality flaw because I simply can’t sit through any of his movies. Blades of Glory. Elf. And then I gave a little movie called Stranger than Fiction a chance on account of Maggie Gyllenhaal. I think of it now as I stare at the parchment paper with a single empty cupcake baking cup unfolded in the center.
Under-dressed with frozen toes, I was thirty minutes early to the food service job where I was to drop off my resume/grovel/beg for employment. Looking for something to do while I waited, I walked up and down the frigid blocks looking for the one thing to do when you are freezing and looking for a job with no money to spend.
Find a cup of coffee.
Past the Lower East Side’s slew of bars, restaurants, salons, and sample sales, on Rivington and Essex I found a crowded little storefront with a sandwich board outside. It had to be some kind of cafe, I reasoned. As I approached, I could see people with to-go cups topped with coffee/tea sippy lids. Between the layers of winter coats much more appropriate for the current temperature than my own — a food case. This place had coffee.
I walked in, paranoid that everyone knew that I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know how to stand in line. I was frozen and going crazy. Bills. Rent. Groceries. Health insurance. Student loan payments. The future. Frostbitten toes. Fuck. I dug through my bag, shoveling out all I had — a crumpled handful of bills equaling a grand total of $4. (No, there wasn’t a sneaky twenty or even fiver hidden between the ones.) This could be the kind of gourmet yuppie place that charged $3.50 for a house coffee. I could forget about ordering one of the many tempting cupcakes lining the case before me.
My gaze followed the rows of cupcakes up to the menu posted on the wall in search of some indication of the prices before I embarrassed myself when it was my turn at the counter. “Sunshine”. Maybe this was that cupcake place I saw on the internet? Suddenly, it was my turn in line and I hadn’t figured out if I had enough to pay for a small coffee. My face could barely move as I choked out my order: just a coffee. Just a coffee in a place that obviously specializes in cupcakes. I looked around sadly as groups of friends laughed and smiled over shared boxes of pink, green, and velvety cream cupcakes. “A dollar”. Really? I quickly eyed the rows and rows of colorfully frosted tops and asked how much the lemon ones cost. “1.50”. I think my eyebrows were trying to rise under my frozen skin.
I took my coffee and cupcake to a table in the back. I slowly peeled back the edge of the baking paper closest to me, noticing how the conversations filling the air generated their own warmth–and took a bite. I fell back to childhood, stealing freshly frosted cupcakes while my mom turned to wash a spoon at the kitchen sink.
I put the baked dessert down fully intending on slowly savoring each bite. I looked up at a baker frosting and packing chocolate cupcakes into a large box. I smiled self-consciously.
I took another bite sooner than I had anticipated. Behind him, a girl tossed unfrosted cupcakes into one hand and then onto a huge tray–frosted–a couple of seconds later. She looked happy.
I took another bite. I thought again briefly of impending financial doom. Of my dad saying that I need to just get a job. Of my mom loving me no matter what I did. And then as I finished the last few bites of my Lemon Yummy cupcake I thought of Molly Gyllenhaal’s character in Stranger than Fiction. I thought of how something so simple could make so many people so happy. I forget about how beaten down and useless job hunting can make you feel. I forget about the stress and the impending doom. Instead, I daydream of working at a bakery just like this one. Of frosting cupcakes one wrist-flick at a time. Of looking around at serious adults with serious amounts of frosting smeared on their lips.
Are the cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine that good? Perhaps. Does giving up your last few dollars make the purchased item that much sweeter? Perhaps. Is doing what you love and loving what you are doing the way forward? I think so. Can baked goods change the world? Without a doubt.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine
126 Rivington, NYC