The sun is rising as I walk up the concrete path in front of the humble-red brick home. I am in the outskirts of central Ann Arbor, and the green door I knock on seems oddly down to earth considering who I am meeting: Bagely, University of Michigan’s Welcome Wednesday’s mascot. I knock again and hear panicked footsteps crescendo as they rush closer to where I stand.
“Hello? What! You’re already here?! Who let you in?”
“DPSS,” I answer.
“Figures. I’m surprised they even opened the door for you given all of the paparazzi outside. There was no one else but you out there? Huh. I’m sure my fans are here by now though, you probably just scared them off.”
“Should I check outside right now to check?” I ask.
“No, don’t look out the windows to check! God! Why not? Because…because I need my privacy, obviously. I’m not even dressed yet. Shoo! Shoo! Talk to the security guards or something.”
Bagely slams the door and leaves me to talk with the security guards. I don’t talk to them. They return a few moments later.
“OK, I’m back. Any chit-chat between you all? Silence?”
I shake my head.
“Alright then. Hit me with those reporter questions you got.”
“What inspired your outfit?” I give Bagely what they wants.
“Well, today I’m wearing everything, because it goes with, well everything. Also not feeling super sweet, per se, after the rude journalistic awakening this morning. I usually get up at around noon, yeah, except for Welcome Wednesdays.”
Bagely settles into their chair, gathering their words for what they says next.
“One time we had an early morning meeting with the University big-wigs, Mark Schilssel and Susan and the rest you know. Out in Mark’s yard under the big trees. Susan Collins and I walked up. I was sleep-deprived but she was used to the early hours. Well, she opens the front door and shakes Mark’s hand, cordial and normal and routine and such. Mark takes a look at me, their eyes still a little squinty and confused from both the sunrise glare and acting like he’s never seen a 6-foot tall bagel before. What’s up with that? Who does he think he is? Well, he opens their mouth to speak, and then their teeth glint and their head barrels towards me and he takes a big bite out of my head! MY head! He did spit it out after a few bites — I do admit I was a bit stale that morning. Comes with age.”
Bagely winks and continues talking.
“Anyway, Susan just kept laughing and laughing and laughing. And then she apologized to me profusely for Mark through a university-wide, no-reply email the next morning. A little insincere, but typical Susan Collins. At least she doesn’t bite people. But more importantly, back to the now missing PIECE OF MY HEAD!”
They sigh deeply upon finishing the dramatic retelling. I echo.
“What’s on your agenda today?” I ask.
They roll their eyes. “Lots of silly appearances. I mean, I feel like with my celebrity status I should be more than just a figurehead for the University, but it is what it is. But, I’m going to a play tonight. A musical, in fact. After I saw the ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ movie in theatres I knew I had to see it live. Hopefully, they’ll include a bagel in it this time, that was my only complaint. It’s at the Power Center, so just a short walk from here. Evan should at least eat a bagel for breakfast, some publicity is better than none. We will see, we will see. But first, the gym. You know, it takes work to look this good, especially when you’re full of carbs.” Bagely gestures to their entire body, looking back at me and their security detail in the distance to make sure we understood. They motion for us to rise and depart, informing us our destination is the Intramural Sports Building.
“Yeah, it is kinda far, but the CCRB has traumatized me forever since my last time there. I go to the center of the Hill for my workout, you know, and everything is all fine and dandy. I wake up the next morning and these cobweb-looking things are above my eyes and near my arms and legs. I look for spiders and don’t see any, and that’s when I realize, it’s MOLD! Mold from the musky, sweaty old CCRB. Despicable! I called DPSS in to help me and of course, they did nothing. Apparently, giant mold infections are ‘not in their de-escalation training.’ Like, OK, way to serve the people, you can’t even help out a bagel.”
Bagely mutters and shakes their head, looking down.
“I eventually just grabbed a broom and swept it off of me. So, in conclusion, I’m never going back to the CCRB again. I need another mold infection like I need a hole in the head.”
They laugh at their own joke.
Bagely led me and the DPSS officers to the nearby curb. They looked into the distance for a few moments to gather their thoughts, and then immediately turned back to tell us more about themself.
“I have a chartered Blue Bus because I don’t really fit in the seat of a normal bus and the screaming fans get to be a little much, especially when I’m listening to my hype-up soundtrack. There’s a lot of different stuff on it, but in between every song is the audio clip of Oprah saying ‘I love bread.’ Wow. So empowering, seriously.” Bagely nods repeatedly with gratitude.
“She’s done so much for our community.”
We catch the bus, and Bagely closes their eyes, swaying to the rhythms of the bus route and the beats in their headphones. The doors open and we find ourselves at the steps of the IM building.
Bagely leads the way. “Let’s go in. Mask on. I had to custom order this mask, they made it out of an old curtain from Mosher-Jordan. Yeah, they trimmed it and sewed it just for me. It gives me really bad sesame seeds under it when I workout, though. My skincare routine? I just pick the seeds off. Doesn’t work on human acne? Well, being a bagel can be good sometimes.”
They continue. “Watch, this is my favorite exercise ball. Look, my center hole creates a perfect nook for it. Ha, ha, floating on my back.”
Bagely bounces up and down on the ball in this position.
“I’m Saturn! I’m out of this world. I am space. That’s a good affirmation. Are you writing this down?” I immediately stand up straight and scribble for effect. “I want to submit that to @umichaffirmations. Yeah, I am bagel space. Out of this world. Ah. Yeah.”
Bagely’s security detail sits down and looks at their phones as they close their eyes and spins themself around the exercise ball, orbiting themself around the gym studio. Their low-gravity session is interrupted by their cell phone, bringing them back to earth.
“It seems that the alumni association called off the rest of my engagements for today so I can get some rest before the play. I can’t wait to see ‘Dear Evan Hansen’! I’ll go get some sleep. Right here in the IM! Mmm, yeah. It takes a while for dough to rise properly, you know. Let me play my sleep playlist. What’s on it? Nicki Minaj. The Oprah quote. The usual alternation, back and forth.”
We listen to the chaotic sleep mix and watch as Bagely dozes off on a yoga mat while the rest of us sit on the floor in silence, occasionally bouncing a yoga ball for entertainment. The minutes pass fast this way without our carbohydrate companion talking every waking second. Sometime later, Bagely stirs and sits up rather quickly.
“What time is it? Only five? Ok, I didn’t miss the play. Ok, what to do until the play? You say you have some questions for me? Ok, grill me on the way home. Not literally, please. Don’t want that again.”
We all walk and I ask Bagely some questions based on their past interview with the alumni center, and instantly their dough blushes with anger.
“You’re really bringing up the spinach-feta thing? Yeah, so I said I’m attracted to spinach-feta bagels. So what. Let’s not flavor shame, OK? It’s 2021.”
I apologize profusely. “Are you still studying anything here at the University?
“I’m a sports management major. We got a nice new building. Custodians follow me like a shadow because I drop crumbs though. Kinda creepy. Yeah, I’m a big bagel from the Big Apple, born in a boiler — hopefully, I won’t die in heat either. We’ll see how long I last.”
We walk up the steps to Bagely’s humble brick home.
“Any other questions for me? Wait. Oh no. Oh no. Got a text.”
We open the door to go inside.
“I need to be at the Power Center ASAP to get ready for the introduction speech, to introduce ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’” I need to take off everything! I’ll go for a more formal tuxedo look. Poppyseed outfit, yeah that’ll be good. Give me some privacy now, would you? I need to get ready.”
Bagely exits the room in an energetic panic, throwing the seasoning off of themself, leaving miscellaneous seeds and spices in their wake. I stare at the floor, remembering how little we had done since the last time I looked at it in the early morning. My gaze is broken by the tapping of shined shoes in front of my own.
“C’mon now! We can’t be late!”
We quickly walk over to the venue. The paparazzi Bagely mentioned is nowhere to be seen.
“Ah, the Power Center. Nice place. Can’t lean up against the concrete walls or else I’ll grate myself to death.”
I rub my hand over the wall to see what they mean and it almost bleeds.
“Kinda scary. I need to sit at the front. Okay, breathing exercises. Breath, Bagely, breathe. I love bread. I am bagel space. I am bagel space. I love bread. Ahhhhh!”
Bagely continues their deep breaths.
“Ok, and now we sit. I’ve mastered circular breathing. I am bagel space. Oooh, the lights are dimming. There’s a guy up there with a microphone. He’s walking over here. This is my moment.”
A stage crew hands Bagely the microphone.
“The microphone is mine.”
Bagely walks up to the stage, their poppyseeds glittering in the overhead lights.
“Ahem. Hello all, I am Bagely. It is an honor for me to be here and introduce myself and ‘Dear Evan Hansen’! This is a really inspiring story, even if there are no bagels, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you, dear fans, for everything. The paparazzi make it all worth it. And enjoy the… Hey! What are these foil blocks being thrown at me? Cream cheese?!”
The audience has begun throwing spreads at Bagely. The metallic bricks burst into creamy snowballs upon hitting the stage surface.
“Oh no. More cream cheese. A knife. Right towards me. Oh no. Right towards my center. I need a knife in me like I need a hole in my head. I’m gonna be the next Abe Lincoln, killed at the playhouse during my prime.”
Sharp objects continue to be hurled at Bagley as the audience boos loudly.
“Another butter knife. Right towards me. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. A knife. Towards me. Oh no. Don’t hit my bread head, don’t hit my bread head.”
Bagely gasps in anticipation.
“And it goes through my center! I’m alive. I’M ALIVE! I am space bagel!
Bagley triumphantly hurries off the stage and motions me to rush outside with them. We gather with the moths under the warm glow of a streetlight.
“Wow, I almost got killed at the play, so close to death by knife, but I came back! Bagely SURVIVES!”
They pantomime writing.
“Make sure you get what I’m about to say next. Wow, a near-death experience! Let’s see that notebook out! Ahem. Ahem.”
Dear Evan Hansen,
Would Abraham Lincoln still be alive if he was a bagel like me? Probably.
Pays to have a hole in the head. Food for thought, huh.
Statement columnist Oscar Nollette-Patulski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org