I arrived for my final cake decorating class after a day spent painting the main floor of my house. I could hardly move my arms and smelled like arse end of a skunk. We were supposed to bring a final project to work on during class. I had big plans to bring a cake — to master the things that had challenged me throughout the course, and to arrive home after my fourth and final class with something jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
Instead I brought six naked cupcakes.
When I walked into the classroom, I saw Up Front Lady at her table. No one else was there yet. I walked to the front of the room and took the table beside hers. I wanted a front row seat for the show.
Up Front Lady: I’m so glad you’re here. I thought I was going to be alone.
movita: It’s the last class. We’re learning roses. Wild horses couldn’t have kept me away.
Up Front Lady: Well, I almost didn’t come. You would have been all alone. All alone.
Then Up Front Lady unveiled her final project. A sheet cake partially decorated with none of the skills or elements we had learned during the course.
Up Front Lady: It’s an anniversary cake!
It was the sort of cake that could destroy even a solid marriage.
Class Instructor walked into the room, looked at the empty tables and sighed. I looked at her. I wondered if she would take it personally. I tried to read her face.
Class Instructor: It’s too fucking nice outside. No one wanted to come tonight.
movita: I did. You promised we’d get to make roses.
Class Instructor: Fuckin’ right I did. And we’re gunna do it.
Class Instructor was talking like it was her last night on the planet. She stood with her hands on her hips nodding at Up Front Lady and I. She must have said fuck a dozen times in under five minutes. I guess it was because she had announced in the previous class that she was moving to Montreal, and that this would be her last time teaching. Ever. She had nothing to lose.
Up Front Lady and I learned how to write with icing. Class Instructor helped Up Front Lady write Happy Anniversary on her cake. I half thought she might opt for Happy Fucking Anniversary, but no dice. She did, however, suggest that we should have brought brown-bagged alcohol to the last class. Just thinking about Up Front Lady trying to keep up in class whilst under the influence made it hard for me to complete the lettering on my practice board.
It turns out Up Front Lady knows Class Instructor’s family, and watched Class Instructor grow up. I was stunned. They talked about stuff that happened back in the day: drinking, smoking, sailboats, drinking on sailboats, smoking on sailboats, and a lot about the insurance industry, which was particularly weird.
Class Instructor: Okay, so now you have to make a dollop like a Hersey’s kiss on your flower pin.
Up Front Lady: Like this?
Class Instructor: Have you ever seen a Hersey’s kiss?
Up Front Lady: Ummmm…
Class Instructor: Just give me your icing bag.
Our last class was the best class. Just the three of us. Class Instructor sitting between us, half yelling at Up Front Lady.
Then Class Instructor taught us how to make ribbon roses. I had been waiting all month to learn about roses, but it turns out that ribbon roses are a cheap knock-off of the roses everyone wants to learn how to make. I guess they don’t teach the real roses in the first course because they want to get another million dollars out of you in Course Level 2. Class Instructor looked at me.
Class Instructor: You look disappointed.
movita: This rose is crap. I’d never put this on anything.
Class Instructor: Yah. (pausing) You wanna learn how to make the real roses? The ones we aren’t supposed to teach you until the next level?
movita: Yes. Yes, I do.
Class Instructor went nuts. She taught us all sorts of forbidden stuff (because she had nothing to lose), and we worked on Up Front Lady’s anniversary cake. It looked like total crap but Up Front Lady liked it just the same.
And then we got certificates.
movita: Wow! We get certificates?
Class Instructor: Don’t get too excited. Everyone gets one. Even the people who only came to one class.
movita: I don’t care. This is the best ever. Best. Ever!
Class Instructor: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone get this excited over the certificate. (pausing) You know everyone gets one, right? The office tells us we have to give them out even if the person didn’t come to any of the classes. We are specifically instructed not to withhold anyone’s certificate. No matter what. So now we have to call the people who weren’t here to tell them that they can pick up their certificates for a course they didn’t complete. You understand, right?
movita: Don’t care!
Class Instructor smiled.
And then it was over. Just like that.
When I was at the craft store today, I saw some signs posted for the Level 2 cake decorating course. For a moment I missed Up Front Lady, and I remembered how after that last class, Class Instructor had called out across the parking lot, “Maybe you should hang that certificate up on a wall!”
Maybe I should, Class Instructor. Maybe I should.