Coming downstairs, it’s an easy swipe to grab the folded newspaper projecting from the letter box – the boy never pushes it all the way through – and then deposit it on the end of the kitchen table. Breakfast is a good time to put the world to rights, which is why Gordon has placed his paper headlines up to the left of his placemat.
The paper is not read immediately – other actions have priority. While the kettle heats, a teabag is dropped into the teapot, and all the other elements of breakfast are arranged on the table. The butter, the marmalade, the plate and the knife, the teacup. No cloth. No need; crumbs will not be scattered. Cutting the bread has become an art. The knife cuts effortlessly, sinking through the loaf to provide two uniform slices of generous thickness. Gordon chooses his loaves for their size; it’s important that each slice has the right dimensions for the two-slot toaster, the beloved shiny toaster. Prized and polished, and calibrated through practice to deliver toast at the perfect level of bronzing …
Gordon takes great pleasure in spreading butter on the crepitatious toast, watching it melt and slowly disappear. Marmalade he spreads thinly and evenly, the orange tones blending perfectly with the scorched wholemeal.
One slice at a time. Nibbling slowly, holding the horizontal slice with his fingers, he hears the letter box’s muffled cry. Something in the post. Perhaps it’s from Pamela. Gordon hopes it’s from Pamela – it would be nice to hear from Pamela.
Gordon met Pamela some weeks ago, and they are still in the ‘checking each other out’ phase: meeting in public safe areas – not rushing things. Pamela has not yet been inside Gordon’s house, although she has seen the front door – through which now her billet doux is currently half-in, half-out, mid-letterbox. The contents of the note are not important; what matters is that she has sent something. A carefully chosen note: matching envelope and paper, of a distinct pastel shade, and, nodding to times past, delicately scented.
Gordon is now conflicted. He’s been expecting a letter from Pamela, and in his current state of limerance is eager to see his hopes fulfilled. And he doesn’t like leaving letters caught in the draught-proof bristles. Expectancy is a pleasure, but so is eating toast and marmalade. Should one pleasure be interrupted for the other, or should he wait? But there is still the second slice waiting in the toaster, keeping warm-ish. If he delays too long, it will have crossed a gustatory threshold and won’t taste the same. Regardless of the toast dilemma, he will still need to wash his hands, as he does not want his sticky fingers to soil the letter from Pamela – if it is from Pamela. Opening her missive with greasy fingers would not show proper respect for this nascent relationship.
Gordon decides to satisfy his curiosity, so with his hands cleaned and dried, he pulls the letter from beneath the flap. He turns it over, examines the handwriting, and sniffs the envelope. The scent does not blend well with the wafted smell of the toast.
Returning to the table, he clears a space, and puts the letter down on top of the paper. Next he must wash the knife he’s been using as it still has traces of butter and marmalade on it. Then he neatly slices open the envelope that Pamela lovingly sealed. She greets him this fine morning, knowing intuitively that he’s in the middle of his breakfast, and that every morning, as she eats her breakfast, she thinks of him, and idly wonders whether such moments will ever be shared by them. Will they ever be stirring the porridge together. Porridge! Oh. Not spreading toast with butter and marmalade … ? Gordon seeks consolation in the second slice of toast, but by now it’s cooled and lost its crispness.
© 2015 Peter Young