by Nod Ghosh
When you left me for the patissier, I stopped liking tiramisu. The bitterness of Marsala against the backdrop of mascarpone sickened me. Rolling a spoonful on the roof of my mouth reminded me of your lips against mine. I wanted to spit.
It wasn’t only tiramisu. I developed an indifference to pain au chocolat, and mille-feuille made me gag. I stopped having friands, and though they had once been a favourite, I found I despised Banbury cake.
Now I look at you through the windows of his shop, wearing a white cap over your white-white hair, serving confections he had once served you. Beside you stands the patissier, the loose flesh on the side of his neck looks like budding gills. Your expanding waistline is testament to the man’s craft.
When we started seeing each other, we would spend half an hour choosing a payday treat in his shop. The butter-kiss bakery smells would hypnotise us. I no longer buy anything there, though I’m often tempted to go in, not by trays of cheery treats, but by the thought of landing my fist in the patissier’s face.
Back then we’d eat our treat at gingham-covered tables in the shop. You always devoured yours before I finished mine. You would look at my plate, your eyes pleading. You’d melt my heart, and I’d let you sink your teeth into my flaky pastry. If we had spare cash, we’d buy coconut-frosted lamingtons on our way out.
We’d run hand in hand, our breath frosting in the air. In our flat, speech slurred by saliva, we’d undress each other and eat pink sponge under the covers. We took bites, and our love was smothered in raspberry gel. Our feet caressed under your gran’s patchwork blanket.
I never eat lamingtons now.
Do you remember that day in spring we met at the patisserie for lunch? Accordion music crackled through the speakers. I’d noticed your affection wavering when daffodils were first in bloom. At the counter, the patissier offered you morsels of cream-topped pastry. He plied you with compliments as you dipped your tongue into his gifts. I feigned indecision to fill the time as he filled your head with notions of culinary grandeur.
I could teach you to bake this.
You have pastry-maker’s fingers.
The sweetness of the soul comes out in the sweetness of the pudding. You would only need a hint of sugar.
You bought a custard square, and I bought a bit more time with you.
The next time we visited, he invited you behind the counter while I finished my coffee. He showed you how to fill a cream horn. He showed you how to create the perfect bloomer. He showed you the mask he wore when dusting their tops with flour.
His mask slipped. I realised he wanted to have your cake and eat it.
I walked out of the shop, left my cappuccino cooling on the counter.
published 20 September 2016