CW: If you’re vegetarian, vegan or are squeamish about where your food comes from; don’t read this. If you read it anyway and find yourself squicked out or offended, don’t hate on me. I did warn you.
His strong, blunt-fingered hands are clean and soft, but I know what they do, day by day; where they’ve been and what they’ve touched.
I don’t like to think of it usually but despite my aversion, an image flashes across my mind; of bloodied lumps and disarticulated stumps. Same hands, different task. He wears gloves, of course. Blue gloves. They offer little protection from the sharp blades of his trade, deftness and dexterity from years of practice are his guard. It’s for hygiene, he told me, a barrier between the living and the dead.
I asked him to put on a fresh pair. Just to see, just to feel. They leach the warmth from his touch, smooth out the friction of finger and palm. I don’t like it. It fascinates me.
The same arms winding me are those which hold and hack and heave at mounds of cold flesh, his muscle built from hefting bone and fat and viscera. There is nothing about this knowledge which thrills me, and yet as heat blossoms between us, the thought won’t leave, hovering in the pit of my stomach until the tendrils of sensation rise from my core to entwine and merge with understanding.
My world is sanitised, plastic-sheathed for presentation, arrayed in artificial order on brightly-lit shelves. Somewhere among the sterile packets grew a seed of disgust for the honesty of production. He is much closer to the truth than I. He knows the sight, and the smell, and the feel of the fibres which wrap and work our lives. “A nice bit of rump” he laughs and slaps my buttocks. I glow at the compliment; he is the expert after all.
He fetches a pen, draws on me the outlines of prime cuts. A tenderloin here, a fillet there. A map of strange perspective over a familiar landscape; linking lust and life in nourishment. Rubbing away the marks, he traces a different pattern with his tongue. A new kind of cartography – this, here makes me shiver with longing. That, there hitches my breath and widens my eyes. He knows all about nerves.
He smells of woodsmoke and black pepper, cardamom and musk. Warm, spicy, comforting. Intimate.
Tomorrow, he will be back at the counter in his striped apron, wielding the cleaver, separating joint from limb from muscle from organ; assembling the building-blocks of sustenance from destruction. Perhaps he will catch himself in idle moments, thinking of my warm skin and lit eyes, in stark contrast to the chilled, glazed fragments which surround him. Maybe he will poke at a breast or grip a thigh and marvel at the contrast between day and night, life and death, food and fancy.
Perhaps I’ll stop by for some sausagemeat.