New Writing – Pain Au Chocolat // Andy Naylor
This was not a day to mess about with a congealed pack of four from the Tesco. This was a day for the big guns, straight into ‘Paul’s’ on the high street. Up to the counter, pressing my nose against the glass and looking at the patisserie delights that flexed their golden goodness at me like a troop of Chippendale’s straight out the oven. I point to the chosen one and enjoy pronouncing every syllable of “Pain au chocolat”. Not for me the self-conscious embarrassment of your Englishman out of his phonemic comfort zone, I embrace different cultures with gusto. I buy pastry from Paul, I sofa judge chefs with Michel and I dance the tango like I was born in an Argentinian brothel rather than an NHS hospital in Guildford.
For days like today you’ve got to go all out. See everyone thinks relationships are generic. They all start and a lot of them end and when it’s over, it’s over. Not me and her though. Annabelle Andrews. I met her at my friends party, she was in the kitchen laughing and I was counting the Doritos left in the bowl. It was paramount that I counted correctly as I never like to eat an odd number of anything and it would have brought me proper shit luck forever. As you can imagine girls don’t really find that sort of thing ‘hot’. I know they definitely don’t because I read this list online of off putting traits in guys. I had three out of ten of them. Anyway that’s not important to the story. What is important is that she didn’t notice me counting but she did look over and smile in a way that transformed her from being Hollyoaks beautiful to cut off your hands for her beautiful. Then I ruined it all by choking on a Dorito in front of her but amazingly she carried on talking to me. That was six months ago, the best six months I’ve ever had. Up until last Sunday I saw her or spoke to her at least five times a day. On her birthday because she was twenty one I drew her twenty one pictures of amazing things we were going to do this year. I’m very good at drawing you see, I suppose that makes up for the absolute ball ache that being stuck in my head with all the counting and the rules is. I waited two weeks before I did anything weird in front of her. We were supposed to be going to see Gravity in the Imax. I’d booked the tickets and everything. She was waiting in the front room while I went for a piss but it all went wrong. Since I’ve been about five I’ve had to do the same thing, turn the light on then off, on then off, on then off, on then wash my hands, dry them and turn the light off. Fucking weird yeah? So anyway for some reason on that day I kept ruining it. I was losing count, washing my hands while the light was off and then starting again. She ended up coming to find me, tears of rage streaming down my face pulling the light string on and off. Most people would have been in a taxi and up the road before you could blink, but she stayed. She stayed with me and I told her everything. I told her about my counting and my routines and how sometimes I didn’t want to lift my head off the pillow because I couldn’t face starting it all over again. And that was it then, we went everywhere together, we were one of those nauseating, hand holding, snogging in public, Moonpig buying couples you want to throw stones at when you’re single.
Then one day last week it just wasn’t the same, she missed my call and didn’t ring me back for a couple of hours then told me she was tired. I couldn’t sleep that night, smoking fag after fag out the window. Texting her, then apologising for texting her, then sending another text to tell her that I shouldn’t have to apologise for texting her. Have I mentioned I’m not right in the head? Anyway, it’s been leading up to this, we’re meeting in the park for a ‘chat’. As I said though it’s not one of those chats, not with me and her, Annabelle Andrews. I round the corner and she’s there but it’s not her anymore. I mean it is her but not like I knew her. She’s smiling at me in a different way now. Like every other fucker does, like people who smile at that guy who gets on the bus with his massive headphones and starts talking to himself. She’s saying something about us being friends or some other fucking platitude and I realise this is it. This is it for me and her. In this park, this stupid little park littered with dog shit and Calypso wrappers. I realise I’m crying but not in a demure, mother of the bride way, I’m snotting and choking and struggling to breathe. Then I’m running and she’s calling after me but I’m like Usain Bolt, a snot encrusted, obsessive compulsive Usain Bolt. I run for what seems like an eternity but is probably about a mile and sit down on a bench outside the town hall. I’m opposite a fountain and for a second I think about hurling the Paul bag into the bubbling water. For some reason I change my mind and I slide a corner of the pain au chocolat out of the top of the bag and bring it towards my mouth. Suddenly I notice a man sat next to me, He’s even more dishevelled than I am and he’s holding an empty coffee cup with coins in it. I hand him the bag and get to my feet and start walking away.
“You can get these in Tesco now mate.” He says.