Workers Cafe, Archway
740 Holloway Rd
020 7281 5333
by Fi Tatta
A guy had broken my heart. Broken it like he'd intended to all along, like he'd been playing a long game since the day we met, broken it like he meant it.
He'd done the job thoroughly. My heart was shattered like the crazed glass of his dropped iPhone.
It's at times like these that one really needs breakfast. In my case, a dirty breakfast - the kind of breakfast that would meet my mood. Sparkling glassware and linen tablecloths and thick fingers of homemade bread would only have presented an appalling contrast with my inner despair. I needed a greasy spoon.
I entered the Workers Cafe in Archway (no apostrophe, no need to bother with such trivialities) in a haze of tears. And I ordered the breakfast, expecting lumpen eggs, grey sausages, a limp disaster of bacon. But, I was mistaken. Don't get me wrong. This isn't good food. It's bad food. But it's bad food done well.
There were piles of crunchy hash browns. Simple sausages with crisply browned skins. Fluffy scrambled eggs. A puddle of perfectly normal baked beans. There was even a little disc of bubble and squeak. It was the Platonic ideal of an ordinary fry-up, and yet how far we usually fall from ordinariness. I would eat it again. In fact I have done. It had the simplistic comfort I needed, the sense that a breakfast just like this has been eaten many millions of times, will be eaten millions of times in the future.
It is a curious thing, the end of a relationship. You end up carrying around the shared secrets, the hidden invented mutual language even though the thing to which those secrets appertained is gone and the only other native speaker of that language is vanished. I imagine that ex-KGB agents still sometimes find codewords and ciphers playing on their tongue as I remember that exact way he would tap my shoulder three times very softly which meant, in our symbolic language "I love you".
And then, eventually, will we pull out the same tired words, the same once-adorable gestures, for a new partner, who will not know their origin? We hope that love will bring something new out in us each time, but perhaps that is only an illusion. We are who we are.
Breakfast, curiously, is a kind of solace for such thoughts. Perhaps there was once an ur-sausage, a first slice of toast. Probably there was some moment when we first tasted a fried egg. It is lost to us now. But the need for breakfast does not go away because the first breakfast is gone. More important than recapturing the perfect breakfast is accepting one's longing for breakfast, and being willing to take what delight is available in the breakfast before you.
I did not expect to be reminded of delight by the Workers Cafe. But I was.