Story blog

The Bread Man

Posted in stories by Amy on 06/05/2009

The best-looking man I ever slept with was a catering assistant at a company called The Altogether, where I worked a few years back.

He was a tall, lean Lithuanian called Victor which is not a good-looking person’s name, but I guess nobody told his parents that.

The Altogether co-ordinated team-building days out for other companies, which involved things like dumping forty project managers in the forest with compasses and cartons of apple juice, and I was a rep.

One of the perks of the job was getting free breakfast with the customers, brought to whichever field, army barracks, or community centre was our home for the day. This breakfast was really something special: croissants, bagels, donuts, muffins; it was like Atkins never happened. Jan and Bill carted along crates of goodies. But Victor was the best. Victor brought a little camping stove with him, for toasted treats. On Fridays he would bring in a bottle of batter for making crepes.

Victor had black hair and green eyes and he used to stare at me across the marmite and Nutella with one part inflamed longing to one part sadness at the world. I would look at him and feel hungry, any time of day. But crepe day was my favourite because it meant I could queue up to see him again and again without looking too keen, because after all, who doesn’t love pancakes? One day he made me a pancake in the shape of a heart, and then I knew.

But it didn’t happen until three weeks later. We’d spent the day doing laser clay pigeon shooting in Wokingham with the finance team from Thames Water. Laser clay pigeon shooting is a lot like regular clay pigeon shooting, except that the shots aren’t real, so it’s much less likely that falling clay will get a CEO in the eye, like on the notorious Bradford & Bingley away weekend of Easter 2005. So there we were, grass-stained and sore-kneed in the gardens of a Berkshire country club. It was a Friday, and the sweet sting of sugar and lemon juice fizzed under our fingernails. End-of-the-week adrenaline hung in the air like sweat.

Lloyd, the deputy finance manager of Thames Water suggested a pub trip. But nobody knew the area so we ended up in a vacuum-packed sports bar – the kind of place where old men bring their dogs and you can make it a double for an extra 10p.  Victor and I sat too close together and then failed to think of anything to say. But I knew that once we got going, it would turn into one of those insane verbal fucks where you challenge each other and say things you’ve never said and tear down the history of the world and write a better one. And I thought I knew how to get started,

‘So you’re reading Spinoza?’

He literally started. ‘Huh?’

‘Ethics. I saw it in with the bagels.’

He smiled, ‘Oh yeah. I borrowed it from Bill.’ Then he grinned at me, like – you’re gonna love this, ‘One of the legs came off my stove, and that book is just the right size! Lucky, right?’

‘Yeah. Wow.’

OK, so I knew that he wasn’t my soulmate. But looking in his eyes made me wonder. He had a way of looking at you, as if your soul was a glass of water and he was thirsty. I couldn’t look into his eyes too long – it hurt like staring directly at the sun. Talking to him was generally painful, because you spent the whole time concentrating on treating him like he was anybody. Like he wasn’t gorgeous. It took up all my attention until his words lost their meaning and became nothing more than a slight itch in my brain. At the same time everything he said assumed a vague irony – he’d bore me with his weekend plans, and the more mundane and detailed his account, the more it felt like we were sharing a joke. Like – look at us exchanging these crumbs of small talk like regular people when we both know we’re above all this. When we could crank this up ten notches any moment.

The rest of the evening was just killing time. Jan told me all about her mother’s hip replacement. Lloyd bought me one tequila shot after another. It was like a square dance where you mess around with other partners, knowing all along who you’re going to end up with. Knowing was part of it. The surprise of a first kiss is what makes it sweet. But the inevitability of finding yourself in a strange bedroom in Tilehurst in the early hours of a Saturday morning – that’s the taste that satisfies.

When we were in bed, he stuck his finger in my arsehole and then licked it, the way you might imagine a French chef licking his finger after tasting a particularly good soup. And even though I was disgusted by this I found it comforting that someone so good-looking wanted to taste my arsehole and I didn’t want to taste his. And I told myself that instead of my arsehole, he was touching my inner true self, and not just the dramatic, yearning, philosophical side that you feel when you put on classical music and stare at yourself in the mirror, but all the mundane or shameful bits that you don’t tell people about in case they decide that you’re not a valuable human being after all and they lock you up in a room with aggressive air-conditioning.

He was probing these bits of me with his index finger and wordlessly telling me that these bits were ok by him, and that they were beautiful.

And then we had sex and it hurt but I didn’t mind and as he pounded away my eyes suddenly filled up with tears and in that moment I felt sure that ours was a true and unbreakable bond, and even if it didn’t conform to conventional principles of love like having things to talk about or enjoying each other’s company, it was a bond nonetheless, and the pain and tragedy of its slippery intangibility just added to the romance.

But then the sex really started to hurt and it was going on for ages because he was too drunk to come and after a while we gave up and he went to sleep without offering me a t-shirt to sleep in. Well to me sleep seemed like reaching for the stars, so I got up and stood naked by the bed and my skin glowed flame blue in the blind-fractured moonlight. And the only thing I could find to put on was his thick grey hoody that said ‘NY state champs’ on it and bore a line-drawn image of an angry-looking chicken. But wearing it would have made me feel like a fraud – as if I was trying to be his girlfriend by borrowing his jumper the way real girlfriends do in normal, nice relationships where you don’t fuck on the first night and nobody gets a finger up the butt.

So instead I just crept back into bed and watched dawn make its lazy way towards us. In the white nothingness of not-quite-morning I shivered in his bed and he slept so far off at the edge of the mattress that I thought he might fall off. And I knew that somehow I’d ended up in that room with the air-conditioning on after all, and it was too late, and there was no way of turning it down, and my arse didn’t contain all the secret, lovable parts of me, but was just a lump of flesh, like a pancake heart is just a pancake.


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  1. Amy said, on 06/05/2009 at 3:48 pm

    So you guys in the group have already seen this, but since our last discussion I’ve put a lot more into the build-up, so that the sex scene is the, er, climax. Let me know what you like/hate/think would make it better. Cheers

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