Pizza On Me
Little rays of the hot July sun slipped lazily through the cracks of the blinds. I brought my fists up to my ears and contracted my whole body all the way down to my toes as I sucked in a great, languid yawn. I lay there for a while drifting in and out of consciousness as the little tendrils of light caressed my sun-kissed cheeks.
I rolled over and groped blindly for my phone on the nightstand but the tips of my fingers could find no trace of it. It was on the floor. Underneath the big 8:57 AM I saw “4 Missed Calls from Bryan Jansen” Is this a joke? I looked out the window and saw a pearl white Beamer in the driveway. Apparently not.
With no small amount of effort, I forced myself out of bed and made my way down the stairs. I opened the front door to be greeted by Bryan with his fiancé, Carolyn.
“Dude…” I said with an unamused scowl.
“Whaaaat? I told you I was coming out early.” He said with an innocent shrug.
“Yeah you did but you failed to mention how early! I don’t even underst–”
Before I could continue, Carolyn’s eyes grew wide with delight and she exclaimed, “Oh Bryan, this is more like it!” She pushed past me and removed her Burberry sunglasses to more thoroughly inspect the place. “This is just delicious!” Bryan hastily followed her.
“So Bryan,” I began as I closed the door. “How the hell did you make it out here so early? I thought you were supposed to be in Davis Park.”
“Sooo do they seriously have ferries that run early enough on a Sunday for you to make it from Fire Island to West Hampton by the ripe hour of 9am??”
“Yes. Yes they do.” He replied as-a-matter-of-factly. “We took the 8 o’clock ferry, hit the road by 8:30, and there was barely any traffic so we made it here in like half an hour.”
“Gee I wonder why! What could everybody possibly be doing on a Sunday morning?”
“Shut up dude. Just ’cause you’re a bum doesn’t mean–”
“Yeah yeah yeah whatever.” I punched him in the shoulder and we both laughed.
Carolyn was still busy admiring my grandparents’ beach house. Can’t really blame her though. It’s more of a mansion in comparison to the beach house proper. It’s got all the bells and whistles: oceanfront plot, floor-to-ceiling windows, hot tub, granite countertops, 80-inch flat screen, three stories, rooftop lounge, and the cherry on top? It’s got an elevator. That’s right…an elevator. But c’mon, would you expect anything less of the tallest beach house in West Hampton?
“You guys wanna go into town and grab breakfast?” I offered.
“Nahh we’re good; we already ate. But I definitely wanna go into town later to check out that really good pizza place. Pizzeria Bruno or something?” Bryan responded.
“Pizzeteria Brunetti!” I said with my best imitation of an Italian accent. “I hope you didn’t come out here just for the pizza though!”
“Nooo of course not!” He replied in mock indignation. “….I also came for the Ben & Jerry’s.”
“Ha ha very funny Bry.” I said. Meanwhile, Carolyn had become wholly absorbed by a copy of Hampton Living.
“Wanna go for a walk down to the beach?” I asked but before Bryan could respond, Carolyn let out a cry of excitement! “Bry! Oh my God, it’s perfect!”
“What! What is hun?”
“This is! West Hampton! Look! Just look! All these absolutely adorable boutiques they have!” She said with her finger pressed to the page. He leaned over to look with feigned interest at the long list of overpriced designer shops.
“Yeah wow look at that hun. But I don’t know if we’ll have time to go today. I have to be back at the apartment a lil early to umm….finish up some stuff for work tomorrow.”
I could feel his wallet sweating bullets. I just had to interject. “No no no, it’s okay Carolyn. That pizza place is right by all the shops.” Bryan shot me a venomous scowl. I tried feebly to stifle my mirth but I ended up bursting into laughter.
“What? Why is he laughing?” Asked Carolyn looking at Bryan in befuddlement.
“Oh um nothing hun.” He sheepishly replied.
Again, I just couldn’t resist interceding. “I’m laughing because Ryan actually thought you would enjoy Fire Island!” She crinkled up her nose at the mention of it. “Uhhh yah! Bryan I’m never going there again! I had to carry my stuff ALL the way from the ferry to the house!
“Well how was I supposed to know!”
“Bryan, Bryan, Bryan….” I said motioning with a hand that said ‘settle down and give me your attention please.’ He crossed his arms and assumed a disinterested pose. I suppressed a mischievous smirk, “Alright, this is how you tell if Carolyn will like a vacation spot or not. Are you ready?” Bryan rolled his eyes. “Okay good. So what you do…is you go into all of the clothing stores in town…and if you can afford half of the things you see or more….then you are definitely in the wrong place.”
I burst out laughing and even Bryan couldn’t help but let a few chuckles escape. But Carolyn objected immediately, “Hey! That’s not true!”
“Ummm…it’s a little true.” I quickly responded. Carolyn paused for a moment with furrowed eyebrows and then finally perked up with a smile and said, “Fine! Maybe it is! Good thing I have the best fiancé ever!” She grabbed Ryan’s arm and hugged it tightly. A panicked flush passed feverishly across his face.
“Alright how about that walk down to the beach?” I announced loudly. We all agreed and began our procession down the boardwalk.
The surf was up so Bryan and I didn’t hesitate to jump right in! Meanwhile Carolyn refused to go in because she insisted that even the sun over here was better. But before long she fell fast asleep on her beach towel.
“She woke up at 6am to do her makeup,” Bryan explained. He sat down in the sand and drew up his knees. His jaw tensed up and a shadow seemed to fall across his face. I plopped down in the sand next to him and rocked back as I drew my knees up to my arms. Then we both sat silently watching the waves crash upon the shore.
“Have you told her yet?” I asked slowly. He made no reply. I hesitated for a moment before speaking again.
“Ya know, I could always lend you som-“
“No!” He barked whipping his head around to face me. A deep pain flared up within him and burned in his eyes. I held his gaze; after a moment he closed his eyes and shakily exhaled a breathe.
“No.” He repeated softly. “I really appreciate that. But no.”
“That god-damned firm may have claimed my career and my 401k when it went under but they can’t take my dignity.” He continued. “I’ve still got that.” He said softly. “And I’ve still got her.”
“And you’ve still got God.” I added.
“You know I don’t believe in that stuff.”
“Yeah I know.” I paused for a moment. “But he believes in you.”
He didn’t respond. We both sat there watching the rhythmic pounding of the waves on the beach. He pushed his fingers through the earth and picked up a handful of sand and watched it slip through his fingers. After a long while he finally spoke,
“Do you remember when we first became friends?”
“Umm what I remember is you almost failing Kindergarten for not putting away your Legos!”
“Dude that can’t happen!”
“Yeah maybe not but it got you to you clean up your damn Legos, didn’t it?!” I nudged him with an elbow and leaned over to stick an accusatory finger in his face. He swatted it away and laughed.
“Yeah I guess it did.”
I shot Ryan a coy smile.
“What?” He prodded.
“I’m gonna run into town and pick up a couple pizzas from Brunetti. Whaddya want? On me.”
“Are you sure?” He asked with raised eyebrows.
“Yeah I got you.” I said with a wink and started back up the boardwalk.
“Alright, thanks a lot man! I’ll take Artichoke and Carolyn likes Margherita!” Right before I left earshot, he yelled one more thing, “But dude! You’re still a bum!”
And then he gave me a warm smile—the kind of smile that comes from a raw, tender place—a place you only see in those fleeting moments when you peel back the layers of angst and desperation. And it is in that place that you find something—something that words alone could never adequately describe. It is kindness. It is forgiveness. It is selflessness. It is the currency that moves the economy of the human heart.
It is love.