14 July 2008

Soufflé: A dream deferred

Panera Bread sells these awesome little soufflés. Four Cheese, Spinach and Artichoke . . . even a couple featuring various meats if that’s how you roll. I freakin’ love these little soufflés: Warm, eggy, flaky, cheesy, spinachy. Add in mango, eggplant or chocolate and you’ve covered every one of my food fetishes.

I don’t want to overstate the case, but finding these soufflés means a lot to me. Now, every morning I wake up and I think “I want soufflé today”*. And it feels really good just knowing that. For the first time in my life, I know what I want. Y’know, for breakfast. My wife and I spend an awful lot of time discussing meals. It’s always hard to decide on something that sounds good to both of us and then of course, we have to determine how much effort we’re interested in putting in to preparation or clean up. But at least now breakfast is covered. The answer is easy. ‘What are you hungry for?’ ‘Why, soufflé, of course!’ And having that certainty feels really good.

I’ve spent most of my life not knowing that I wanted soufflé. Now, I know I want soufflé and I want it so badly that I can taste it. I get up in the morning while my wife is still in bed, throw on some pants and head to my local Panera franchise or get a soufflé or two. Here’s the rub: my local Panera franchise is always sold out of the soufflés! I walk in the door, craning my neck to see around the person blocking my view of the bakery case, hoping, wishing, dreaming that there’ll be a couple of soufflés waiting there just for me, looking all steamy and take-me-home-y. But they’re not there. The signs are there. The teasing little signs reminding me of the delicious varieties of soufflé are there, but they’ve got nothing behind them. Just an empty, slightly greasy looking tray.

No soufflé for you.

I don’t think I’m asking for all that much. Just a fucking soufflé or two. But the universe is conspiring against me, keeping me from achieving my dreams of warm, flaky, French pastry. And no, a croissant or breakfast sandwich will not do, please don’t trivialize this, Lady Behind the Counter.

Here’s where, through use of a literary device, the soufflé becomes something more than soufflé. Here’s where I show that the soufflé is really only an allegory for the rest of my life . . . a warm, flaky, delicious allegory, but still only an allegory. Or a microcosm, if you will: a single tiny experience that reveals the larger state of my life.

I went to college for eight years. Most of that time I had no idea what I wanted to do after college, I just aimlessly forged ahead. It really wasn’t until I did my student teaching this spring that I knew for certain that I actually wanted to be a teacher. And having that certainty feels really good. So I waded into the job pool with optimistic visions of landing a good one . . . only to find that the pool was less of a pool and more of a puddle. A small puddle quickly evaporating. I’ve applied, I’ve even interviewed but those are all just the little signs reminding me of the soufflés I’m missing out on.

No job for me. For months now. And without a job, I can’t get that which I really want in life: a goddamn soufflé. For the first time in my life, I know exactly what I want. But I can’t get it. So many other things in the way, too many other people beating me to the pastry counter. Happiness is so close but it looks like I may never grasp it. It’s getting harder and harder to even bother driving down to Panera. How long until I just give up and eat some toast? Or do I keep trying only to be let down day after day?

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it fester like a sore and then run? Or will it fall like a soufflé not carefully attended to?