Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker. 

I imagine these always in three dimensions. Real places. Stores. Stores with four walls, stores side by side on a street. Maybe a Main Street. Daylight arrives and the doors open. People enter in. Life enters in, too.

Life has filled City Bakery since it opened twenty three years and two hundred and eleven days ago with a force 
I never imagined when I first imagined a bakery. 

There has been wonderful life: creation and beauty, art, romance and love [great volumes of love]. Pleasure, deliciousness, thrill and indulgence. Opportunity and fulfillment. Surprise. Enlightenment.

There has been every bit the flip side too: struggle, hurt, heartache, frustration, pain. Burden. Burden and pressure for more than one life or one lifetime. Violence [real violence]. Ignorance, insult, prejudice.

Three Saturdays ago, pain and disbelief entered in. Aracelis Ayuso, "Sely" to all who knew her, left the bakery midday after her counter shift, walked to the subway and was killed in too cruel of an accident.

Today is her birthday. She would have been 22.

Two nights after her death, the bakery staff gathered together. We were hurting and the idea was to be together in that moment. We talked about Sely. We went around the room and a lot of people said special things. We all knew how much we were stunned and hurt, but I don't think most of us expected to hear the beautiful things we learned about Sely.

She had a hold on a lot of us. She had a way. She had a hold on the old staff and somehow especially the newest staff. People who had worked here only a few weeks were already bound to her. Fans. Sely had fans.

She was tiny. She was strong. She always smiled. She was beautiful. She loved people. She loved to learn [such a gift]. She drew hearts on the bottom of customers coffee cups, whether they knew it or not.  
She had a short, metallic-pink ponytail that was a perfect exclamation point for her personality.  

Behind the front counter of the bakery is an ice bin in the center island. A two-way pass thru that one has to lean down into. Every morning, I go into that bin and fill a glass with ice. One morning, months ago, Sely's face appeared on the other side of the bin. She gave me a big smile. It was a perfect peek-a-boo moment. I came to know it was very Sely.

Almost every time I went for ice since then, Sely would appear on the other side. She loved to sneak up on that moment. At some point more recently, we built on the routine: we would both reach in and grab each other's hand and squeeze hard for about two seconds. Our morning hello.

Four days before she died was her first anniversary at the bakery. She let some of us know that it was a milestone for her. I didn't say at the time how much her milestone meant to me. 
I think she was so happy to be where she was with work. She had so many friends here. She was so good at so many things and cared to be good at everything. 

We are left thinking how to memorialize her. She deserves that. For her birthday today, we are a bakery wearing pink, her favorite color. The entire staff in the store and in the kitchen too. We've also begun raising money for her 3-year old daughter Ashlynn.

It is disbelief that she's gone. Disbelief and sadness. So many people have passed through this place. So many stories and so much life. This is not the first terrible thing to come this way, but this feels so loaded with unfairness and pain.  

I want to be sure that people know: Aracelis Ayuso was part of our bakery, our family. Our friend and special soul. We feel her loss deeply and are bound by love for her. We won't ever forget her. 

Aracelis Ayuso
1992 - 2014 


  1. So beautifully said.

  2. I didn't know Sely very well but she was a part of my life. Nearly every morning for the last year, she was waiting for me, sliding my usual order across the counter. "Here you go, hon," she would say.

    On the odd days she wasn't there when I arrived in the morning, I would find myself watching for her. As a whole the baristas at City Bakery are a warm, friendly bunch, but Sely was special -- vivacious, outgoing, smart, generous, playful. I wasn't the only customer whose day was brightened by the few moments we chatted or exchanged pleasantries.

    I was deeply saddened to hear of her passing but take some solace in the knowledge that her remarkable spirit will survive in her daughter. Thank you, Maury and City Bakery, for commemorating her today.


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