oughnuts always look so sexy. I sit at the table near the pastry case and stare. I don’t care if the guy who works the counter here at La Doughnut thinks I’m a creep. So what. His name is Barry. Everyone knows that all Barry’s are the real creeps, so I’m not going to accept the judgment he tosses my way. He doesn’t know me-know me anyway.
      As each doughnut is purchased I nervously pet my moustache and mumble a little good-bye.
      When I’m studying their succulent roundness I think about what it would be like to be in an alternate universe where it would be ok to openly date a doughnut. So many options, fresh batches to choose from every day, so many varieties. I want to love them all. When the doughnut shop is fairly empty I can really get into it.
      My fantasy usually starts out in a Toyota dealership-waiting lobby. Two self-service machines are situated in the corner. In front of them is a smallish, paisley patterned orange carpet. There is a seating area in an L-shape that mirrors the machines. I commonly imagine that four adults could easily sit comfortably here. A poster of a red Corolla managing a mountain pass and silver Prius on a rainy highway hang on the fake wood paneled wall. A small table anchors the bifurcated seating area. On it are copies of Fortune magazine, Wired, and a tattered Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition from 1989. There is a mixed smell of gas and watermelon scented air fresheners. One of the machines offers a rotating variety of snack treats including a pink sprinkle doughnut in plastic wrap. The target of my desire. Facing the food distribution machine is a hot liquid dispensing machine. Inside I am a cup. I am a cup waiting for someone to press a button. Please, I pray, make me with cream and sugar. It’s an exciting crapshoot. The person that picks me must also locate the coordinates for the doughnut. This is the combination that must occur for full gratification. It is my fantasy so it is always just my luck that a very hungry, caffeine-deprived fat man or women named Chris enters the dealership with plenty of jingling vending machine change.
I don’t know, I used to say to my therapist. I cannot pinpoint the moment. It’s impossible. It’s just always been there. I can’t remember any troubling doughnut experience that would stop time and make me fixate. I don’t have an uncle who hid doughnuts in his pockets or anything. I do, however, remember the first time my father took me to the church basement after mass. I was three. We wove our way through the post-sermon mumblings of shiny-shoed Catholics. Then, there it was, a fold out table with tray after tray of doughnuts, a metal cash box and a couple of female grayheads. Ten cents each. I fainted. When I awoke, I was home in my bed, my clip-on tie lying on my chest. I screamed because my father had failed to purchase a doughnut for me during all the flurry. Could this be genetic, I asked the therapist. No, she said, that is fucking ridiculous.
      OK, so I can’t date a doughnut in public. I decided one day about six months ago I’m going underground with the whole deal. I can’t buy a dozen doughnuts from Barry at La Doughnut cuz he’ll give me a look like he’s knows what I’m up to. So, I drive forty-five minutes to an inferior doughnut joint. I gotta do what I gotta do.
      My shirt was soaked around the collar with anticipatory sweat as I arrived at the North Beach Donut Hut. I grabbed a dirty sock from between my back seat cushions and dried off a bit. I’ve waited a long time for this. I’m thirty-two now. I’m a Systems Rerouting Manager. I can do what I want Barry and other judgers.
      All the eye candy in the place is heartbreaking. I don’t want to stare for too long. The lighting is bad. Fluorescent. Doesn’t show off the best features. I wrote out a list in preparation for this moment. I knew that I’d become a mess of stuttered thoughts and fitful tongue misfirings. I had to get in and out. I slid my list across the deliciously clean top of the glass case.
      Two Bismarcks
      Three Old-fashioned glazed
      Three chocolate old-fashioned, no glaze
      Two jelly-filled
      One pink sprinkle
      One buttermilk glazed
      One free plain cake
      The girl who is putting them in the pink box is maybe Mexican or Republican. Her image is a mess of pointillist pixels. Frightened lungs regulate my breath. She is not judging me, I don’t think. Her nametag says: Lisa. She doesn’t look like any Lisa I ever met. I hand over a crumpled, moist twenty and before she can straighten it out I’m turning over the engine in my Saturn.
      I brace myself for the drive home. I don’t want to sully my night with a hasty car date that could only end in bad decisions. I wanted this to be right.
      Good. I get home and the lights are off in my house. My wife is out tonight. I made it so. I bought tickets for her and her twin sister’s favorite band: Flock of Seagulls. Also, I don’t think this is cheating. This is eating. This is something totally different. I love her a lot but I can’t think about her right now. I have to remain focused.
      I told the doughnuts to wait in the car.
      I went inside to the basement and set the stage. I scattered napkins with a rose pattern all over a picnic blanket on the carpet. An urn of coffee and a mug sat next to a stack of thirteen plates. The gawky tripod was hidden behind some golf clubs my wife’s father had given me. I put six romantic CD’s in the player including Barry White. (Another Barry. I hadn’t thought of that before.) I chose that one because I figured the doughnut that could fathom the ironic sexiness of Barry White would be the doughnut for me. I inhaled deeply. Camera ready.
      I put one doughnut on each plate. I circled my thumb around each deep-fried lovely. Every girl had her own unique taste and consistency. Their beauty only frosting deep. God, how I’d waited for this moment. I couldn’t believe it was real. I poured some coffee. I was about to find my one special doughnut. My holemate.
      Right off the bat three were eliminated in the compulsory heat. They sure did taste good even if they couldn’t manage to make me laugh. During the second heat two crumbing misfortunes and a severe loss of jelly filling spoiled victory for three more contestants. I was down to half a dozen plus the free baker. I don’t have a polygamous bone in my body. This is one time I wished I did.
      Cue Barry White.
      There she sat winking at me, knowingly. Swaying mockingly. If you had asked me at the beginning of this pageant, I would’ve put my money on the largest of the three old-fashioned glazed. How wrong I was. I didn’t even bother eating the others. The plain cake doughnut, the one I received gratis, she was the standout. I put the others back in the pink box and stacked the empty plates. I cleared the picnic blanket of the coffee urn.
      I unzipped my cutoffs. They fell quickly with the weight of my wallet and Aerosmith collectable belt buckle. I could tell she was getting turned on by the pool of denim rippling around my ankles. A warmth ran through me. From below the shadow of my spare tire I lowered my Mario Andretti boxer briefs. I yelped a little because I’d also inadvertently grabbed a couple of tender belly hairs. She giggled. I could do no wrong. Nothing had ever felt so right. I kicked my shorts and briefs off. She insisted that I rip off my t-shirt. I dug my fingernails into the middle and obliged. I picked my baby up and hugged her close. We danced for what seemed like hours. The first kiss was better than any I’d imagined with pink sprinkles from the Toyota waiting lounge. She tasted so sugary sweet it was hard not to eat her right away. I practiced restraint. We got to know one another all over the basement. Up against the drywall. On the ping-pong table. The orange beanbag. The cat bed. The stack of National Geographics. Foosball table. The green beanbag. We did it until she broke.
      I cried like a baby as I dunked her, piece by piece. Then I hit PLAY on the camera.