“Hello, Baby Cakes,” my wife says as she comes into my office, where I am at my desk, tallying expenses. “Baby Cakes.” I don’t think she has ever called me that. Maybe. Maybe once. Yes, we were lying on our backs on the grass under a tree examining the branches and marveling at God’s handiwork across the street from a Catholic church that looked stern and pompous compared to the ancient pine-ness that rose heavenward with a laziness of purpose that transcended all possible gravity. But now, in my office, compiling my receipts, stacking them neatly, I wonder: Who is this “Baby Cakes” woman? And the wondering happens outside of time, right next to time, in a space like an airplane hangar inside my head with fluorescent lighting, corrugated walls, and people, total strangers, sorting through columns of boxes at a speed invisible and infinite.
Crab cakes pop to mind, golden brown. I always want to order them off the menu, but never do. I get something else and then yearn for the crab cakes, long for them, like a six-year-old in shorts and brand-new Buster Brown shoes and a white dress shirt, sitting on a park bench, wishing his mommy and daddy would love each other and not get divorced. But knowing they will get divorced, I order something else and keep wishing. The yearning in me is like a bar of pure, everlasting light. Yeah, the chicken parmigiana is the best I’ve ever had, but damn, those New England crab cakes.
But, again: Who is this “Baby Cakes” woman? The question obliterates all thought of crab cakes, and, for a moment, I am making love to my wife underneath the spinning floor of a merry-go-round. Happy, drunken, red-and-gold-sounding music blares and wheezes beyond the wide wooden platter of a floor that hurtles by inches above. But, I guess, like crab cakes, I cannot quite permit myself this level of gladness, so the image vanishes or goes underground and will probably reappear in a dream as my inability to find my car keys or my luggage or escape Nazi Germany in time.
Wedding cake comes to mind. Nice, shiny pink-and-white-frosted cake, cake with babies inside, or, perhaps, maybe babies are made of of a certain kind of cake, Pillsbury angel food cake. Thinking this, I am positive babies are made of dough, and it’s nice my wife has that feeling about me. I have always felt that I was made of dough. It’s been my very own perfectly kept secret all these years. I have skin and bones, but somehow, somewhere, the essence of me is sweet-smelling cake dough: the sort of dough deer might make, in the forest, if they had eggs and milk and flour and mixing bowls and white paper hats and napkins and etiquette.
Or perhaps it is that my wife just wants something from me. Women will do that. Would I mind cleaning the garage? But first, the “Baby Cakes,” to soften me up. And it works. I feel completely soft. For a second, a second without top or bottom or sides, I am made of cake dough, dough that deer, deep in the forest, have made with their own hooves and with a purity of instinct beyond reason or thoughts or the sin of words. And I realize I love my wife with that same purity, that same sugared wholeness. And I am no longer a little boy on a park bench wishing hard into my brand-new shoes. I am everything that ever was or will be. And I am made of dough, cake dough, and I am round, now, round like a baby.