It all started when Dollar Pizza Place Down the Street suddenly closed.
It was a Tuesday night and I was ordering two slices of plain to go, digging out the quarters from the bottom of my wallet whilst nodding my head sympathetically as Pizza Guy behind the counter told me how his wife’s back was still troubling her. The fluorescent lights in the teeny tiny take-out restaurant blinked maybe more than they should have and I doubt Pizza Guy could even hear my vague yes-I’m-still-listening mmhmms over the buzz of the ENORMOUS refrigerator rattling in the corner, but I was enveloped by the aroma of possibly fake, impossibly delicious cheese and by the warm knowledge that this man, this slightly balding discount pizza connoisseur with crinkly eyes and a wife whose back was still troubling her, was the only person who had consistently been there for me since I first moved to the city, doling out happiness for the mere price of 99 cents a slice. I found peace in knowing that at least I would never starve so long as I had him as my ally.
And then, two nights later – TWO NIGHTS LATER — looking to bury my burdens under a mound of grease and cheese, I made the two-block jaunt to Dollar Pizza Place Down the Street only to find out it was CLOSED. For good. Completely shuttered. Game over. The gate was down across the door. The warm light that once served as a beacon for the drunk and the hungry was out, the red awning gone. Pizza Guy had packed up and left without even the tiniest hint of a goodbye. Zero warning. Total devastation. You think you know a person, I thought. You FINALLY LET YOUR GUARD DOWN, I thought. And then all these memories I forgot I ever had came flooding back: the way PG would wink at me on Saturday nights when I asked for two sets of utensils to make it seem like I wasn’t about to eat 4 pieces of pepperoni by myself. The time I had to explain to him I wasn’t dead, I had just been at home visiting my parents for six days. Dollar Pizza Place Down the Street was my lifeline, my provider, and now it was gone. I had no one. Hangry and hopeless, I felt the sadness settle over me, sticky and unshakable, as that one line from that one Robert Frost poem I was forced to memorize in high school foggily crept to mind: “So dawn goes down to day / Nothing gold can stay.” I had been abandoned. I was alone.
When I’m hungry I get a little melodramatic ok?
Look, I have a point. Life’s a doozy and even the tiniest of upsets can suddenly send you spiraling toward the darkest, most shadowy recesses of your mind that you didn’t even know existed. I’m not saying that the great Dollar Pizza Disaster of ’14 is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, but it did make me realize that I’ve been, well, stuck in something of a rut these last few months, dependent on routine and un-open to change because I couldn’t, in my head, imagine life looking any other way.
It’s like one of those allergy pill commercials where they show you a shot of a flower-dotted field under a blue sky and everything LOOKS normal and you might even think to yourself “wow, what a nice looking patch of grass” and then – THEN – some magical TV force peels away this previously invisible filmy filter to reveal that, no, that’s NOT just a nice looking patch of grass, it’s the most beautiful TV meadow you’ve ever seen, practically PULSING with color, as a voice explains to you “there’s clear, and then there’s Claritin clear.”
It’s time to rip off the film.
Anyway, wherever you are, Pizza Guy, I hope your wife’s back is feeling better.
Lolololol remember when I used to write about clothes and stuff?
Whatever. Pizza is ALWAYS in fashion.