Shortlisted for the 2016 Hillingdon Literary Festival Anthology ‘Writing Local, Thinking Global’. This is a story about goals, relationships and pancakes.
The American Pancake Dream
Sunday morning. It had to be a Sunday morning. Are those not the doziest mornings, when people don’t want to unravel themselves from the kindred bond they have formed with their mattress overnight? You disliked getting up most mornings, so I was sure that Sunday morning, when the world would suck its thumb, would be the morning I would make you pancakes.
It’s a daydream I’ve had a thousand times, with hardly any deviation to its plot or screenplay. So whenever I thought about the time I would make you pancakes I imagined it happening on a Sunday morning.
We would be in a quiet house somewhere – not one we’d ever actually lived in. I suppose the room was never integral to this dream, but the room I pictured was always whitewashed, like those rooms you see in television adverts. The ones with the matching furniture that is elegantly simple, that people who saw our bedroom would like without thinking we’d tried too hard. We’d be sleeping in this room, on a bed with white sheets, and the sky outside the curtains would be bashfully sunny, so as not to completely awake you. I’m not sure why, but I shied away from the idea of you being completely awake.
A Sunday morning would likely mean no work and sleeping in. Myself, I’ve always disliked sleeping in. Mostly because I cannot do it. Like a doll I would remain by your side until your need of having a grip on me waned and I would slip out of bed, of sleep’s physical trappings. My movement might not have caused you to stir, but I liked to imagine that on this Sunday morning you would shuffle and open your eyes, seeing that I had gotten up. It just seemed so much better, somehow authentic, if I did not have to shake you awake so that you could hear me ask:
“Would you like me to make you pancakes?” Your attention would snag on the word ‘pancakes’ and I’d wait for you to gather you thoughts, untwining the hairband on my wrist and catching it in my hair – still long in this scenario. I’d remind you that I would make them from scratch, and not some dirt-dry ready mixture. Things made from nothing are usually so much better.
Finally your sleep-addled mind would decide exactly how happy you were with the prospect of pancakes.
“That sounds nice,” you’d say, voice still gagged from slumber.
You didn’t have the choice of denying them in this scenario. I would offer pancakes and you would always want them, with the predictive formula usually reserved for things less human.
“English or American?”
Just as your eyelids would have been drooping to reacquaint themselves with their lower half they’d break open. You’d stare in wonder at the creature before you who had both the knowledge and the will to make you either of two nationalities of pancakes from scratch.
In a slightly befuddled tone, as if you were expecting me to have been leading you on, you’d ask for American. Always American. Because that is the recipe that requires more time, more ingredients, and is altogether more impressive. I have always enjoyed making American pancakes, and have never thought of it particularly as a chore. But to you it would have seemed like such a bother, like I’d stepped far out of my way to make them just because, and only because, you had asked for them.
You would begin to close your eyes again as I walked to the bedroom door, but before I opened it I would ask, with the perfect measure of easy nonchalance,
“Would you like chocolate chips in them?”
I enjoyed pondering the exact expression your face would morph to in that moment; a disbelieving slackened jaw, the barest touch of your mouth quirking to a smile. That was the culmination of my imaginings. The idea that you would not want chocolate chips was simply an undiscovered thought in this dream.
When I wanted this to happen I still don’t know. It would be after this moment that I would know we had succeeded in our relationship, that we were the paragon of couples, the incarnation of modern romance. Like the white picket fence people used to picture lining their gardens, I’d picture offering you American Pancakes, knowing that on the day these things became corporeal I’d finally be able to think to myself: I’ve made it.
My imaginings halted in the same place. There never was an afterward, because I was so caught up in the thought of making you pancakes that I forgot all about actually making them.