The Morning Rush:
The warmth of the room is accompanied by the smell of oil and butter and sugar, and we like that. We also like when we go up to the counter, how Mr. Singh reminds us that with every donut, he can throw in a cup of coffee for only fifty cents more. He says this with pride even though he’s just an employee.
It can’t be easy for him. The morning commuters are never really pleasant. And on gray days, these early-to-work, early-to-the-local-happy-hour types are equally gray. I know that Mr. Singh takes their sadness to heart. He tries very hard to keep the place clean and cheery, but he’s old, and he misses things. Some people get really annoyed that he takes money and handles their donuts without ever washing his hands.
We used to work and rush around, too, but we’re retired now. I guess we miss it: the hustle. But even then, we used to come here on our way to work. Mr. Singh didn’t work here then, but everything else was the same. The rows of glazed old-fashioneds, the krullers, and the sensitive jellies that bled at the slightest squeeze by other jellies pushing to make room on the tray. People used to sit at the tables that line the wall as you walk in, but nowadays, no one has time. We don’t mind it. We always get a table, and after the rush we sit with Mr. Singh while he plays music from his country.
Convenience in the Afternoon:
The donuts here are ok, but I’d like them better if it wasn’t for the old man. I don’t care if I can get a coffee for fifty cents! It’s like he’s making commission. He probably does come to think of it. These guys are always connected. They don’t just sell oil, you know. Now, it’s like they fucking own everything—like this store, for example.
When I was a kid, man, it was owned by a nice family. I don’t remember their names, but they were American. I remember that. I also remember the daughter. Man, she used to give me a boner.
They’d actually clean the place after the morning rush, making sure that the donuts were stacked on the tray nice and neat. But Mohammed or whatever his name is, when I get here in the afternoon, he’s just sitting around drinking his fucking fifty-cent coffee and playing some weird music. Aside from some other old guy who always sits in the corner and talks to himself, there’s not one customer in the place. Maybe in some countries, a donut store can be empty and there can be napkins on the floor and the bathroom can smell like piss, but not here. This is America, right?
If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so close to work, I’d be buying my donuts somewhere else. But that’s the way these guys operate. They make it so that their gasoline stations and their donut shops are the only convenient ones around. They’re taking over America, man, one fifty-cent cup of coffee at a time.
While the Rest of Us Sleep:
I don’t love sitting here waiting all night for some guy to pay me 50 bucks so I can pretend like I’m affected by him. But it’s warm in here, and the nice Indian guy and his son don’t make me pay for refills. I like watching them—especially the son. I don’t want to fuck him or anything, but I like watching him work. He’s not like his father. He doesn’t wear the towel around his head, and he doesn’t have a beard, but he’s got his father’s eyes—they’re brown and green and I think there’s even flecks of yellow.
Sometimes I’m not around the whole night. There’s cops in here and you gotta be careful. They sit around the small tables and make bad jokes and their laughing is only interrupted by the pounding sound that the son makes in order to flatten out the dough he’s working on in the back.
I don’t think he likes cops. He pounds harder when they’re around.
The cops know what’s going on. They know the son doesn’t care for them, but they don’t care. They also know why I’m there, but they’re on break, and what do they care if I’m trying to make a buck? Some of them give me a look too—even a couple butch types. If it wasn’t for their partners, they’d probably be taking me somewhere.
Anyway, when a guy comes in, and he’s not just here for munchies, I get up and stand outside. If I guessed right, and this guy who made a point of telling the son he was buying donuts to eat by himself is interested, then we make a deal. If I’m lucky, we just go down the block to the park.
There’s usually no one left when I get back. The cops have gone and the potheads are sleeping. The father has also gone home to sleep a few hours before he comes back in the morning. So it’s just me alone with the son listening to music I’ve never heard before watching him pull donuts out of hot oil.
And on cold nights, like tonight, when the glass gets all steamy, I feel like I’m in a dream where everything smells sweet and fresh, where my friend and I talk about whatever, or maybe we just sit there—him on his stool on the other side of the counter, me on this hard seat in the corner, waiting for the sky to light up, and for the time when we will each go to sleep in our own beds and dream about any place other than this donut shop.