The first day I had ran in and got in a flap over milk. I had made my way from the office across the street, the pouring rain having driven me into the first shop I could find: the newsagents. I fell into the shop, hands shaking, my brain leaking milk information. It was my first day of my new job and if I was going to get seven coffee orders right, I was going to need milk. Lots of milk. More milk than I could physically carry. It was a good job I had magic milk carrying powers.
The old Asian man behind the counter didn’t look up from his paper as I put the milk bottles on the counter. I had a quick glance round the shop: booze lined the walls and a thin carpet of shit lined the floor. The newspaper headline read Sweetcorn Shortage in Russia gets Worse, and there was a fridge full of sandwiches just behind me. He said, ’That’ll be £4.83’ and I gave him the money for the milk and left the shop.
It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
The next day I ventured once more into the newsagents to purchase a sandwich for lunch. Going to the shop was a short journey from my office and coupled with the fact that I wasn’t yet too au fait with the city and was afraid of being stabbed in the face, it was the best place to go. I chose a cheese and ham sandwich and put it on the counter. He didn’t look up from his newspaper, this time emblazoned with the title Russian Politician Replaces Penis with Broccoli, but commented ‘£2.65’ absently. I placed the money on the counter and left the shop.
Each day I would return, and each day I would be silently updated on Russia’s vegetable situation. He would never look up from his paper, but would always inform me of how much currency I owed him: I bought the same sandwich every day and his phrase never changed. It was a workable relationship, steady and monotonous. Exactly the type of affair you want to have on your lunch break. I was practically ready to make love to him, until one day… there were no more sandwiches.
‘The sandwich people are on holiday’, he said.
Shocked and a little bit terrified by the fact he had opted to say something other than ‘£2.65’, I turned round from the fridge to face him and his paper-face: Petit-Pois Destroy Kremlin: Russians Peeved. I had no time to laugh. This was a desperate situation.
‘What… all of them? All of the sandwich people?’
‘Yeah, pretty much’
And that was that. I wasn‘t able to buy a sandwich. Nor the day after that. Nor the day after that. There was a sandwich-shaped hole in my heart that only this old Asian man would be able to fill. My days would be filled with regret and hunger.
It had been approximately a week since the sandwich people had gone on holiday and left me cold and alone. I had taken to inserting Frazzles between two pieces of paper (which turned out to be marginally better than the sandwiches from the newsagents), when one of my work colleagues asked me what the Hell I was eating.
‘I’m eating Frazzles and paper. Obviously’
‘You do realise you’re the only person in the world who buys sandwiches from that shop?’, she replied, with only a hint of sandwich smugness.
‘Well, where do you guys go for lunch?’
‘There’s a cob shop round the corner from the newsagents. They’re much nicer and they don’t make sandwiches out of shit’.
It sounded amazing.
Thus, the day after I walked past the newsagents and saw the old man sat behind his paper once more. I continued to walk a little further on to the cob shop, knowing in my heart that these cobs would never be as good as the terrible sandwiches from the newsagents, served with a side helping of cold indifference. I purchased a cheese and ham cob, and then took a bite… oh dear God of all sandwich awesomeness. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it genuinely wasn’t made from shit, but was instead made from real cob-like materials. Sheer joy had me walk past the newsagents without even looking in on the way back to the office. Had I done, I might have seen the newsagent glance up from his paper…
The next day I went to the cob shop again. Their slogan ‘It’s a cob, not a bap maaaayte’ filled my heart with glee as the chubby cob woman filled my bready buns with cheese and ham goodness. This time I didn’t look into the newsagents, so engrossed by what can only be described as the face of God having been grated and put in my sandwich. Had I looked however, I might have seen that the newsagent today had not picked up his paper at all, but instead had watched me from the window…
And the next day I went to the cob shop again, having experienced cob withdrawal symptoms during the night. I had only been able to rub a piece of bread on my face in the morning and now, by this afternoon, I was hungry for my daily dose of cob greatness. This time I ran past the newsagents back to my office without even thinking to spare a glance to the man I had left behind. These cobs were too fantastic. It was as though they had been made from cake and biscuits, only in the form of bread and sandwich filling. I loved them and the hole in my heart had been filled! Never again would I look into the window of the lowly newsagents and the old man; yet had I done, I might have seen him pawing at the window, hands brimming with sandwiches, and eyes filled with tears…