My date buttered my bread with dirty hands

Tracey Folly

Buttered bread is my love language. If you want to win my heart, butter my bread with clean hands.

I am a strong independent woman. Nonetheless, I do appreciate having my bread buttered by my date, with one caveat. Please wash your hands first.

It was a warm summer day shortly after high school graduation the first time a man buttered my bread. We took the bus across city lines to a restaurant in a nearby town. Then we disembarked at the bus stop right outside Joseph’s Family Restaurant, walked inside, and were seated, all without washing our hands.

My first thought even as a seventeen-year-old many years before COVID-19 was a thing was this: Don’t touch anything before you wash your hands.

While I was waiting for a natural break in the conversation to excuse myself and find the ladies’ room, the server brought us water, paper-covered straws, and a basket of warm rolls with swiftly melting butter.

If ever I needed a sign that this was the right time to go wash my hands, this was it. I excused myself and made my way to the nearest supply of soap and running water.

There was no way I‘d touch a bread roll with my dirty hands.

When I got back to the table, my date was busily buttering bread, all the bread.

My heart sank. I really wanted some of that bread, but I didn’t want it like this.

Mentally, I checked off the items We’d touched since boarding a bus in the heart of the city. There was a handful of quarters for the bus fare, of course. I’d touched the railing as I climbed the steps, and I’d probably touched the seat we’d sat upon for the ride. We’d even held hands.

Now, my dinner companion was touching every piece of bread on the table, buttering them with dirty hands and reckless abandon.

I certainly couldn’t ask the server for a fresh basket of bread. Could I? I couldn’t; I didn’t have the nerve.

There were buttered bread rolls everywhere. They were on my plate and his plate. They were lying amid the scattered crumbs on the less-than-spotless tablecloth. They were everywhere except the breadbasket whence they came.

An untouched roll was nowhere to be found.

Due to the short amount of time I’d spent in the ladies’ room coupled with the vast amount of bread he’d been able to butter since I last saw him, I knew the possibility that he’d left the table to wash his hands was zero.

“Would you like some bread?” he asked, indicating the rolls closest to my elbow with his butter knife. “I buttered some for you.”

“Thank you,” I said.

My companion and I weren’t strangers. He was well aware of my penchant for bread. To deny my affection for warm buttered bread rolls now would arouse suspicion.

I couldn’t refuse the bread based on how many germs, millions of germs, were clinging to its surface like melted butter because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and I couldn’t pretend I’d lost my affinity for it.

There’s no way he would ever believe me.

I ate the bread.

It’s been more than twenty years since that day. In the grand scheme of things, I should not spend so much time thinking about a piece of bread I ate when I was a teenager. There have been so many memories made since then, so much water over and under the proverbial bridge.

If only it had been a one-time thing.

Later that year, in the fall, I walked into the same family restaurant with a different young man. This time, we had walked to the restaurant from a nearby home. Well, I walked.

He rode his skateboard. Then he walked, and then he rode his skateboard a bit more. Since I couldn’t walk nearly as fast as he could roll, he varied his method of movement to better keep pace with my steps.

That meant a whole lot of touching his skateboard, a skateboard that was no doubt crushing bugs, tar, remnants of roadkill, animal waste, and the occasional phlegm spat out of car windows by drivers and passengers alike.

We arrived at the restaurant, and I retreated into the ladies’ room to wash my hands before taking my seat. When those bread rolls reached the table, I intended to be ready.

When those bread rolls reached the table, I wasn’t ready.

My new companion was mid-butter when I took my seat, and while I hoped the bread in his grimy hands was intended for his own plate, my hopes were in vain.

He placed the bread on my plate and smiled. “Here you go,” he said. “I buttered your bread for you.” Everyone knows buttered bread is my love language.

This time, I didn’t eat the bread. There were plenty of unbuttered rolls left in the basket.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Boston, MA
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