For Miranda Dennis ’08, Tinker Day was a delicious stop along the donut highway.
Krispy Kremes melt at the touch, are tender and loving, are used by my family to perform a wholeness we do not always feel. An aunt is in town. She arrives bearing bright pink lipstick for my mother and a flat iron, to make us less depressed, more stable, with tamer hair as the humidity reaches peak subtropics. My mom says, I’m gonna pick up some donuts. And she does, puts on a pot of coffee, Folgers, both bitter and flavorless. I want to shove every single donut in my mouth, every flavor, even the sticky jelly I am not sure I even like, to achieve the moment where the satisfaction melds with the body like water, holds steady this Saturday morning, in a city in Alabama where the women converge but do not cackle, do not coven. I show little resistance to my favorite sweet and sneak back to the box, guiltily, cutting a donut in half. I eat everything now by half, hoping to become whole.
At [Hollins], years later, classes are suspended for most of the day, usually after an autumn chill has swept clear the mountainside of snakes. Young women dress, to climb Tinker Mountain, in leotards and spandex, feather boas and glitter, perform skits mocking the administration, eat fried chicken, grow fat on cake. But before they do, Krispy Kremes are served alongside eggs, the kitchen staff having gotten up even earlier to cater to this tradition that cracks dawn and welcomes the sleepy brood. Before this, the students sense it coming, sometimes cruising around late nights before this day, searching out the Krispy Kreme truck’s 4 a.m. proximity to the campus. It’s important to be in the know. It’s important to signal this to one another, to herald the arrival of something important early; a prophet is only as good as her promptness. The donuts are the green light, and they say, “This morning the world is more magical than yesterday was or tomorrow will be. We promise you only that.” Though coffee served tastes like ash, as always, as expected. But for years we choke that down, always with the promise that if we can climb a mountain, fueled on sugar and youth, we can get through anything.
My friend Meghann, an illustrator based in Toronto, draws a pink donut inspired by me and sends it along with another print of hers I order. Later she asks for permission to sell prints of the donut, as if I were the creator. I am only the muse. If we live in a world where a donut still life, inspired by me, can generate income for my friends, then we live in a world better than the one I would have designed. We live in a world full of light. Imagine a hole so big your eye is visible on the other side, blinking with the speed and regularity with which you in particular blink. The person who faces you and the pastry framing your eye like a monocle must be delighted, or a type of dead if not. Holes within holes to let in light. “There is a crack in everything,” sayS Leonard Cohen. “That’s how the light gets in.” Your iris constricting to keep you safe, to allow you to see the broad range of colors the world has to offer. Lavender, a shocking pink, or the warm khaki of a good glaze.
I’ve had my life wrecked and made better by a sour-cream donut at Peter Pan Donuts in Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Polish neighborhood, where if I tried I could probably find pączki, and believe me, I will try. I’ve subsisted off Entenmann’s donuts and live now close to its factory in Queens—my life a series of gas-station-donut moments, the comfort of junk. I think back to my sister buying me a donut before school, which is not the genesis of my love of them, but simply a continuation in the narrative. What is the narrative about any woman’s relationship with food? If you strip it of what gets projected onto a woman’s body, it’s simply joy. I earned this, I want to say, but I’ve nothing to earn. The joy is momentary, but it is there, unearned and unasked for, rising up like a balloon before it disappears. All I can say to this joy is thank you and goodbye. And so I do.
Miranda Dennis works in digital advertising in New York City and lives in Queens with a fat cat and a messy, well-loved bookshelf.
This is an excerpt from “Of Donuts I Have Loved,” first published in the online edition of Granta magazine: granta.com/of-donuts-i-have-loved.