Desire emerges in a multiple form, whose components are only visible a posteriori, according to how we manipulate it. Just like heterosexual desire, homosexual desire is an arbitrary frozen frame in an unbroken and polyvocal flux.
—Guy Hocquenghem, Homosexual Desire (1978)

I’d say we’re in love. Sure we’ve bikeshedded since breakfast and I have little clawmarks on my wrists but when push comes to shove, sorry, when all the chips are done and dusted, me and him are so in love it makes me want to sit inside a yoghurt pot smothered in goo and sob for hours on end. Condensation on the metallic mirrorbreath underside.

They say I’m a handsome fellow. And I have worked myself into a frenzy squatting. But you should open your eyes with Swanny hunched over you. You’d buckle so hard. If you saw him restocking the milk shelf awful children calling him crappy names you’d be even more likely to keel over. Such a softwhip guy. And does he know his way around a chiller cabinet.

I should know. I taught him more than a couple of tricks in that department.

Leven is a good place to work in a supermarket. Fife has this air that makes you want to rip your scabs off! In other places I let sleeping lions snore.

Days take so long. The vinegar tang on my fingernails from squeegeeing the freezer lids. Swanny’s jokes rattle around in my chest like the last few shards of a pack of ridged crisps.

Clobbering around on all fours. He’s a vision and a half. Some little pixie barely real. “I got the moos like Jagger.”

Is it public knowledge? A few customers smile wry and/or haughty when we have a fight or when I tell him off for not rotating the bakery items right. My tongue has its scratchy moments; it can really drill. The manager knows. Serious Face.

Even on my days off it makes sense to swing past, pick off the fag-ends from around the shutter. “Never off duty.” The manager steams beetroot. Before long in the cold store the cool pristine cardboard gets all frosted like a beer abroad.

“It’s so cold in here if I was a chicken I’d be looking for the nearest cottage.”

This is the busiest shop in the centre, and it’s new. Me one of two who remember the old shop, big enough almost for two to fit. But this place takes a while to acclimatise. You have to get your head around the zones. Swanny’s managed pretty well but the manager is intense beyond belief. Our takings have gone through the roof which means the area manager is more hanging over us with all of the strange energy he exudes. Life when he’s around is:

The next time he saw me we both said hello again and now he’s ignoring me. He definitely acts a little odd around me this much I can tell. I don’t know how much longer just saying hello will be enough though. I’m of a mind to step it up. He kind of seems a little suspicious almost at times. There has been a strong eye-lock a few times and he always seems very demanding during this. I don’t think I have ever known anyone act this way before; it seems odd.

When I’m manager it will be a different story. And the cold store will make sense. We won’t get left with unopened, forgotten about boxes of Mint Ice Cream and customers crying out for them at the tills.

“It’s so cold in here the dogs have to put jump leads on the rabbits.”

Swanny’s breath is very tangy. He’s on Grindr a lot. And I don’t mind. My minding gave up often enough, long ago in the past. I’m over minding.

It’s a challenge. Every day a summons and a provocation.

“Not all the rabbits Swanny not them all.”

I was so angry earlier this week after two so-called friends turned up to my Karaoke and left before I sang. They kissed the benefits of my twenty percent staff discount goodbye. It just sunk blasé into the cess as they clutched each other laughing and eased out of the pub. Barely a trace. Tony Robinson can dig it up in a few years.

In work in that state you make mistakes. Bound to. We were perching on the ladder bank in the cold store. My bum. And you said you didn’t know what haemorrhoids were before you met me.

“What do you call a frost bite mixed with a love bite?”

When I’m manager we might be able to have a staff meal, once in a while. We might be able to give employees stars for good behaviour. Some of us are crying out for a little management. And it’s also about protection. Those kids who torment Swanny, they’ll grow up someday.

Another thing Tony Robinson can dig up? Every certificate I ever earned. Especially the ones that say “OF COMPLIANCE”. They’re laminated to shit so there’s no hope they’ll decompose in a hurry.

With anger, with mistakes you get projection. On all sides.

There’s a mouse in the stock room! There’s a mouse in the stock room!

The manager promoted me shortly after that. He had to in a way otherwise I would have told tale tit. Me and the area manager aren’t so estranged. My word is ever so slightly more than mud – its minerality may be pronounced but it holds together. So now I’m outside, in my new assistant manager’s Ka, watching the firth, the bottling plant, and a football match on the green to my right.


Swanny defrosts and refreezes all day long. Like shaving – luxuriously bearded one minute (think the hair of Orlando Bloom in Lord of the Rings) and sandpaper the next. I sometimes think he’s this tangle of homosocial and homosexual wires and what I want to do is unknot them.

Swanny, here’s everything I want to happen: I’d like to hang out in the cold store, our orange shirts untucked. I’d like you to ask me seven questions about my life up until this point. I’d like you to ask me five questions about my future hopes and aspirations. I’d like to also ask you 12 similar questions, interleaved. I’d like you to tell me 3 jokes and me to laugh at them all. I’d like to tell you a story and for you to laugh at it. It includes an impression. And I’d like you to say wistfully that joking aside the impression isn’t bad. I’d like you to ask me to do the part with the impression again. I’d like you to then ask me a 13th question, which would be “Is everything ok?” I’d like you to listen while I tell you about my unhappiness. I’d like you to be nervously brushing the frost off a box with your forefinger and at some point I’d like you to instinctively reach up and use the forefinger to wipe away a tear.

About Colin Herd

Colin Herd is a poet and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Books include 'too ok' (BlazeVOX, 2011), Glovebox (Knives, Forks and Spoons, 2013), Oberwilding - with S J Fowler (Austrian Cultural Forum, 2015) and Click & Collect (Boilerhouse Poets, 2017).

Colin Herd is a poet and Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Books include 'too ok' (BlazeVOX, 2011), Glovebox (Knives, Forks and Spoons, 2013), Oberwilding - with S J Fowler (Austrian Cultural Forum, 2015) and Click & Collect (Boilerhouse Poets, 2017).

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