by Harriet May
“What is nduja?”
We are sitting at the counter in Pizza East, having just ordered two negronis. Sam shrugs. “Ask the waiter.”
“What is nduja?” I ask the waiter. I get my reply: “It’s a salami,” and I quickly ask my next question before he can escape, “and girolles?”
I pause, glancing back down at the menu. “And…”
The waiter has taken this brief window and sensibly rushed away. “Let’s share the nduja pizza and the girolles and guanciale pizza,” Sam suggests, knowing how indecisive I am and how long it took to even agree on Pizza East (only once I had stared sadly at the enormous queue snaking from Dishoom).
Afterwards we walk back from Shoreditch, stopping for a drink at Redchurch and then Birdcage. On the way I am explaining how upset I’ll be if anyone calls me Mrs when we get married, or assumes I’ve changed my name. “You won’t be sad when I cry if someone calls me Mrs Bourke, or worse, Mrs Sam Bourke?” Losing my own identity would be a trauma.
Sam assures me he doesn’t mind. “We’ll put something about it in the save-the-date email.”
“I feel really strongly about this, but also I don’t want you to be offended. It’s just that it’s not about you, it’s about me!”
Sam laughs and squeezes my hand. “That’s a good line.” I don’t always know what I want, but once I do, I’m certain. By this time we’re in Broadway Market, just before London Fields.
“Want to go to the secret bar?” Sam is referring to Kansas Smitty’s, the bar in the basement of Off Broadway. There’s a neon sign in the window, so it’s not really a secret, as such.
But then once you look there’s often more going on, just below the surface.