By Emma J. Lannie.
When you touch my hand, I get a feeling that I should be reading more into it, like it is a cliche, but I keep these thoughts to myself and carry on keeping busy. The pressure of your fingers weighs itself on me, though, and throughout the day, I allow recollections of these moments to swim through my head and ease themselves into my thoughts.
You only come here to buy bread. But you eat a lot of it, and the way your hand rests against mine makes me think it is not all about the bread, that maybe it is about something else entirely. I think your visits might be about me, and then I stop thinking that as soon as I’ve thought it, because bread is a basic necessity, whereas I am not. I am inconsequential. I am merely a portal to bread, I am the doorway to toast.
You choose the loaves with the most flour on them. I have been paying attention. I like to mentally record peoples purchases. It passes the time. It is my version of ticking off red cars on a long motorway journey. I make pie charts if there are enough variations. Your pie chart only has three segments: Soft batch, Bloomer, and half-a-dozen Oven Bottoms. Soft batch occupies the biggest space. I think it must be your favourite. Sometimes, you ask me if I can slice it for you, and I have to put it on the slicing machine and hold my breath. I am terrified of the slicing machine. On my first day, I was told the story of how one of the Saturday boys was messing around and Not Being Careful and happened to slice off a chunk of his hand. And now he is deformed. I thought it was a scare story until I read it in the Accident Book when I was getting a blue plaster from the First Aid box. I think sometimes, when you are told a horrible story, you automatically assume it is not true. Sometimes stories can be so grotesque that you would never believe they actually happened. But bad things happen all the time, so I don’t know why we pretend they don’t.
I only started thinking about your hand and mine recently. I just had one of those days when I seemed to Wake Up and then everything around me took on a new clarity. You might have held my hand like that a hundred times before without me even noticing. My head is rarely in the same place as my body, especially when I’m working. Now, I think I will notice if you breathe differently in my direction. My senses feel heightened, I feel ultra alert.
It is so strange to think about the conventions of our day to day lives. There is a whole unspoken language that we have learned. To let a hand linger a fraction of a second too long against another’s is code for I Am Interested, without having to mean a thing if not picked up on, if not read into. The subtleties are the things that excite me. How a momentous revelation can be lost if the signals are ignored or misread. Or how a Big New Thing can be conjured from seemingly nowhere, how the seeds of that can be contained in a glance or a smile that is given and received rightly.
I think that I want to take this further. I want to read this correctly. I will pay attention next time. I will make my own speech, using the pads of my fingers. I will say I Am Interested right back to you, and if I have been correct about all this, then we will move on to the next part, where we open our mouths and let the noises of plans spill back and forth between us. But if, as may well be the case, I have imagined everything, then our mouths will just say Bread and This Much Money, and that will be that. And it will be disappointing, but it will also be okay.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma J. Lannie lives in Derby, where she works as a librarian. She has been published in Six Sentences, Straight From The Fridge, The Beat, Un-Made-Up, Dogmatika and Beat The Dust. She writes here and “works” here.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, March 23rd, 2009.