The Pizzeria

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The skies were gray, covered by a thick endless field of clouds. I was feeling a little cold on this day as the wind whisked around me with a playful aggression. Droplets of rain fell through the smearedpuffiness in the sky, splattering on the sidewalk, reaching up with their last breath to find their final resting place on the cuff of my pants. It had been about fourteen hours since I had last eaten anything. I was walking to the subway station on the way home from an appointment. Home was over ten miles from me, the comfort of dry clothes and warm food more than an hour’s trip away. Though the rain always makes me feel alive, and though I would gladly spend eternity under elemental skies, I was hungry and sought reprieve.

I stopped in front of a pizzeria. The inside was moderately well-lit, glass cases lined with slices of pizza that appeared slightly old. In its unheated state, the food didn’t look particularly appetizing, but hunger and the threat of cold rain will move a man into a less picky state of mind. I pulled the glass door open, a little surprised at how easily the door moved. I didn’t recall working out recently, so I chalked it up to the very well-balanced and thoroughly lubricated hinges of the door. It was Ray’s Pizzeria, on East Houston Street. The staff wasn’t so friendly, despite my own amicable greeting and tone of voice. Perhaps it was the gloom that permeated the city. After five minutes had passed, I went to collect my sausage slice. It was hot to the touch, and my sensitive fingers couldn’t hold on to the slice long enough for me to take a bite. I sat there, idly flipping through the random emails I received on my phone. The cashier girl was on the phone, chatting with someone in Spanish. She kept looking over at me, and I tried my best to ignore her by studiously examining the rest of my email. In time my food had cooled off enough to manage, and I took a bite. And then I took another. Then another, and then another. I was waiting for my tastebuds to relay to me a very particular message: “Wow, this is tasty!” Alas, I was disappointed even after five or six bites. The pizza was decidedly unspectacular for the astronomic price of $3.48. I wished that I had simply ignored my hunger as I so often do when getting into a state of writing frenzy.

When I finished eating, I rose from my seat and turned around, heading to the closest trash can. I saw that there was a mother and her child, a little girl, sitting at the counter facing the window. I could hear through the glass the passing sound of tires rubbing against the wet roads, the pitter-patter of a calming rain. Tree branches bumped into each other, their leaves cascading in a glittering wave along with the blowing wind. As I buttoned my jacket up and left the quiet pizzeria, I looked at them. I walked past the window and saw that the little girl had a notebook open in front of her, with a large slice of pizza sitting next to her textbooks. She was writing meticulously in her marble notebook, with great concerted effort. Her mother looked warmly on her. I imagined that the little girl was doing her homework while waiting for her pizza to cool down. The image of a mother and daughter, huddled close together in a pizzeria on a rainy day, would be impressed upon my memory. Bubbling up from my memories were hints of my own childhood pizzeria, and how special it was to have the fragrant aroma of herbs and savory sauce in a marriage with crispy crust and chewy cheese. I wondered if the little girl would remember this day in the distant future, some day when she had matured and grown into a woman. I wondered, with a tear in my eye, if she would remember this day as a special one, special in its own little ways. I ruminated on the magic of childhood and hoped that the little girl would one day appreciate that day as I did. As I descended into the underbelly of the city, I told myself that someday, my daughter and I would make memories of these little simple moments of warmth. Someday…