The Lady With The Cupcake

by Thomas Beller


266 West 11th St, NY 10014

Neighborhood: West Village

I looked out the window and saw a woman come walking up the street eating a cupcake. She was blonde, in sneakers, alone. The cupcake’s icing was white. The woman’s timing was perfect— I had begun reading on the computer at dusk; by the time it ran out of power, and the screen went suddenly black, the sky had become dark and the streetlamp outside my window, which shines bright as a full moon, had switched on. There were no lights on in the room. I sat in darkness and looked out the window hoping for something, some gift. I saw the woman with the cupcake come up the street.

There is a famous cupcake store on the corner. Once upon a time in this town people lined up to get into nightclubs with names like “The World.” Now the world comes to New York and lines up to buy cupcakes.

I watched this lady walk with her cupcake, preparing to take a bite. She had a box in one hand, with a couple more cupcakes in it, and the cupcake in the other. She pushed the edge of the cupcake to her mouth, took a bite, but it was an indelicate maneuver even from four flights up. I wondered if she had traveled a long way to get to New York and was now achieving one of her goals, to eat these cupcakes, of if she was local, and was giving herself a Sunday treat on the way home. I also wondered if she was going to eat the cupcake by mashing it into her mouth while she walked.

She seemed to have the exact same thought about the indelicacy of eating a cupcake while walking and carrying a little box. She paused in front of the stoop across the street. She gave it a once over and then looked around, as though she were about to sit on someone’s car hood and wanted to make sure no one was around to yell at her.

No one was around. She sat down. She crossed her legs. She ate her cupcake in small hungry bites.

Just behind her, in the window over her shoulder, I saw some movement. It was the guy with two poodles. The guy with two poodles lives across the hall from the large woman with the pit bull, who for a living walks other people’s dogs. I thought the movement was the man with the poodles, but it wasn’t. The movement was a poodle. There is a brown one and an off-white one, and this was the off-white one, which seemed to be standing on the back of the couch, where I had never seen it before. Behind the poodle, the man seemed to be hovering, as though trying to coax the poodle down off the back of the couch. I was sure that he was talking to the poodle.

Now we had the solitary, Hopper-like figure of the Lady with the cupcake, and, unknown to her, just over her shoulder, a poodle and its owner, talking. Next to her was the entrance to the stairs that lead down to the basement apartment, where the building’s superintendent lives. He is from Ecuador, has a wife and baby, and maintains, I have heard, a carefully organized collection of DVD’s and videotapes featuring live performances of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.

I tried to take a picture of this tableau, but the camera malfunctioned in a way it never had before. A memory card error, it said.

I turned it off and back on, and now it worked. But the lady had finished her cupcake and the poodle and come down from the couch. The scene was over. The stoop was empty. But I was very glad to have seen it. I was so grateful. I was thinking, “You can leave New York. You can leave it and it is all right, because you can always come back. It will always be here! Everything is going to be all right!”

I calmed myself by taking a picture of the empty stoop.



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