Zia Hassan


There’s something so perfectly painful about pastries.

I used to eat a pastry almost every day when I used to work in downtown DC. The truth is that the eating was a distraction from what I found to be an utterly boring desk job. If it wasn’t a pastry, it would be something else relatively unhealthy, like a can of Monster, or perhaps a sausage that spent most of its morning bathing in the juices of a cantaloupe in the office food court.

It was embarrassing to run into anyone down there, if I’m being honest. Even though I knew that they were getting the same pieces of cardboard bacon and watered down maple syrup in order to cope with their far-too-routinized lives, it was still a source of shame.

One day, I wanted to try something new, so I stopped by a nearby bakery on the way to work. I ordered what I thought would be a quick breakfast pastry; a small piece of key lime pie. After ordering it, the cashier took the key lime pie out of the shelf, put it into a little aluminum container with a plastic lid, tied a ribbon around that container, and put the whole work of art into a pretty heavy duty bag.

I walked into my cubicle that day with my laptop bag and a giant bag that had a bakery logo on it. My co-workers had to watch in their peripheral vision as I unwrapped every piece of the pastry puzzle. They watched as I struggled to remove the plastic top of the container. They watched as I took my first bite, as the little bits of powdered sugar covered my fingers. They watched as I tried to eat cleanly and neatly, and how I ended up with cream all over my face.

They watched me eat a pastry in the most dignified way that I could, but I don’t think they would have described the act as dignified.

This, by the way, is what happens every time I eat a pastry. There’s no dignity in pastry-eating, none. But it does kill the pain of living, just a little bit.

Pastries. Painfully perfect.