As a child I would wander down Bleecker street. I would go to the park, run my hand over every monkey bar and every rail, then drink water from the park water fountain. I would scooter down the bumpy sidewalk and scurry up the stairs of my music school and into my violin class. My violin teacher's hands touched mine and I learned how to play the four stringed instrument. In the infamous year of 2020 this trust of human touch is erased, gone. Within a matter of months touch is terrifying and sharing space is life threatening.
Every Tuesday, from the age of four, when I finished my 4:30 violin lesson, my father would take me to Magnolia bakery. I would jump in his navy blue work van and struggle to reach the seatbelt. I would reach my arm up and stretch my fingers to grab the strap. I couldn't do it; my father would reach across to the passenger seat and give it down to me. Buckle in and go. As I stepped into the bakery and looked at the cupcake case I pretended to not know what kind of cupcake I was getting. My eyes wandered over every sprinkle and every crumb. I got to smell the sweet smell of pure sugar. Vanilla bottom, chocolate buttercream top. My father pays and we sit in the park across the street and share. I don't like the cake as much as the frosting, so I break it off in bits and feed it to the pigeons. He steals bites when I'm not looking. After I'm done, we get back into the van and we drive home. We hit green lights all the way.
Every single Tuesday. This isn't the city I know. These Tuesdays aren't the Tuesdays they were. Now there are lines outside stores to control the amount of people in the space. There's no sweet smell of sugar through the masks. There's no in person lessons. So much change, so much difference. I don't recognize the city and I don't recognize Bleecker Street. The majority of small business stores are closed and Magnolia Bakery is empty. Bleeker street music school isn't bustling with small kids with stars in their eyes, dying to learn an instrument. This city isn't the one I grew up in. I pass my elementary school yard and see children running around in small groups with masks on. One kid is always showing their nose. I watch teachers tell kids to pull up their masks and not to hug each other. This isn't the city I know.
Over quarantine I took up baking. I ran through recipes like water. Cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, breads. My sister's birthday came around in July and at this point I felt like I had the status of an experienced baker. I thought long and hard about what I would bake for her day when finally I decided upon cupcakes. I immediately looked up a Magnolia recipe for vanilla cake and chocolate buttercream frosting. I sifted flour and creamed sugar and butter. I classically swirled the chocolate buttercream frosting into a perfect circular tip. As we sat at the table that night and tasted the treats I thought about Bleecker street and how I hadn't been there in a while. I thought about how I had made almost identical cupcakes in my own kitchen but it didn't come with the pigeons, or the music class or the park bench. Soon I'll go back and smell pure sugar again, but in the meantime, I'll sift flour in my kitchen and pretend my dining room table is a park bench.