On Serving Couples

First shift of the week.
The only customers I serve
come as couples, hand in hand,
sharing smiles between the aisles.

Five hours of till work,
endless click of the cash register drawer.
Five hours and fifty tubs of ice cream,
slowly melting on the belt,
taken from a trolley filled with shampoo,
‘his’ and ‘hers’ mugs, a packet of condoms,
selection of sweets for an evening couch stint.

I can spot a couple before I even begin
to run their groceries through the till,
distinguished by a glow as they start to unload,
always more ready to talk than the single folk,
asking for DVD recommendations,
to which I almost suggest ‘Saw III,’
just out of spite, hold my tongue,
placing their food in bags because
they’re often too wrapped up in each other
to remember to wrap up their fruit,
smile of pity from the female
as I hand her a fresh bag of kale.

After couple number nine,
I stop asking how their day as been,
no longer curious about what they’ve been up to,
deciding that I don’t particularly care.

They’re always having good days anyway.

Instead, I start picturing the girlfriend in bed,
the way her hair smells after she’s run
each of the conditioners she’s buying through it,
the noise she makes when he goes down on her.
Picture her wearing the lingerie she’s purchased,
her boyfriend winking at me over the wine,
knowing that he’s played his cards right.
Pathetic of me, but so is looking at the legs
of passersby and imagining my hand on their thighs.

I don’t enquire about evening plans,
because their answers remind me just
how lonely I am in comparison,
stacking shelves until midnight before
going home to that same single bed,
waking up at ten and doing it all again
as they share a dinner for two.

Chichester, June 2017


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