In the alley, the kudzu vines from last summer are still thick as your pinky finger, wrapped up in the chain link that borders the lot. I light up next to the dumpster. Breathe in the smoke, exhale. Look at the sky against the painted white brick corner of the building. For a second, that crackling space inside my head goes silent.
I drop my cigarette butt into the cup I keep in the herb planter, a cup I keep there for that purpose. When I step back inside the bakery, I can see the specks of flour spinning through the wedge of sunlight from the open door, the timer going off like a fire alarm in my brain. Someone drops a canister of rainbow sprinkles and they scatter like firecrackers across the tile floor. When I’m off my meds, everything is alive like this – moments snapping like rubber bands, everything gone technicolor as leaves on a tree just after a storm. I hold on to the edges of things to make sure I don’t spin off with the rest of it. The stainless steel countertops gleam like the surface of sunswept lakes, the ovens yawn open to reveal steaming trays of biscuits, each one golden and distinct and perfect. I pull the trays from the oven with mittened hands, and feel the heat through go through my fingers like lightning, streaking through me, reaching the tips of my toes and gathering in hot little pools in the round places of my bones – the point of my elbows and the knobs of my knees. When I pull the biscuits from the trays one by one, each is like a miracle and I am astounded by all of it, even by Jimmy’s voice as he calls out the orders, “Two biscuits for Jonathan!” And then here comes Jonathan to the counter, reaching out his arm with such grace it’s almost like a dance what he and Jimmy are doing. And then it happens again, “Maple glaze and a cinnamon twist for Sarah!” And here’s Sarah, practically pirouetting to the counter and the synchronicity of it is just so lovely that I want to cry. So far we’ve sold one hundred and twenty biscuits and sixty-three donuts and it is only 9:37 am and this, too, is such a beautiful set of numbers that I can hardly stand it. When Jimmy sees that it's all too much for me, he taps my shoulder and I stop pulling the biscuits from the trays and I step outside again, to the alley and the dumpster.
Except it is raining now, and rain always makes me thoughtful, and I start thinking about how what’s good for one person isn’t always good for the next and screw any doctor who says he knows better. Like, smoking is good for me, but my meds aren’t. And I might die of cancer someday but at least I won’t die of lethargy which is what happens when I take the lithium – my limbs go slow like they’ve been dipped in the donut glaze and everything stops breathing on its own and all the colors fade and the sounds mute and everything is so bitesize and manageable and when I think that this is how the world feels to other people all the time, I just feel so damn sad for them I want to cry.