esplanaadi bakeries

THERE’S AT LEAST one decent bakery on the Esplanaadi this morning but there are many others. The first one is called Strindberg, and it would certainly suit Mr. Strindberg, should he still be among us. But it’s actually quite gray and stuffy in there, without any clients or espressos, and there is no life in Strindberg this morning at all. The next one is farther along the Esplanaadi, down beside Marimekko, where the window displays are colorful and bright and even the mannequins look lifelike. Joggers and students are out in the park and the neon sign of the Svenska Teatern is glowing gold at the end. There’s something reassuring and supportive about that theatre. Inside the second bakery, a young woman is taking cinnamon buns out of the ovens. She’s dressed all in white and her gold hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail. I watch the girl work and I can almost taste the rich texture of those buns through the glass. From behind, she looks just like Dulcinea. I hope my love helped Dulcinea. Maybe something really bad was supposed to happen to her, maybe Dulcinea was supposed to be struck dead by a tram, but it instead she is here baking because of some positive energy balance in the universe. One of my favorite encounters with her was years ago at the beach. She herself came up to greet me. She was so small in the sunshine that day, and I wondered if she really could be the same vivid Dulcinea, the beauty who fired the ovens of my imagination. She was so small and light that day, but gentle and warm too, like a life-sustaining spark, cupped in one’s hands. “How old was that girl?” my daughter asked when she had gone. “Twenty-four or 23,” I said. The sand swirled up in the wind and then she was gone and I mostly forgot about her. I forgot all about Dulcinea and had no idea what became of her. Apparently, she moved to Helsinki. She got a job in this bakery on the Esplanaadi. She spends her mornings inside, baking the buns behind the glass, wearing that white outfit, and walking to work in the dawn light, past the joggers and dog walkers, and the steadfast Svenska Teatern. I did love her though and still do and she doesn’t needs to turn around to know it. I’m at peace with that all now. Not everything has to be hammered through correctly, you know. Not every shape must fit. Not everything has to be as neat and as trim and as perfect as they say it should be.

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