It was a beautiful summer evening. I was out walking around my neighborhood. I went by this little plaza. A guy was standing on the sidewalk. He looked at me, smiled and said: “Hello. Beautiful night, isn’t it?” “It is indeed,” I said. “I work at the pizza shop, you can come in and hang out, if you want,” he offered a little too eagerly. “That’s cool,” I smiled and continued walking.
I glanced back at the pizza shop. It was small and empty, mostly a takeout place, I thought. It was a sad looking place, which contrasted the guy’s mood. I wondered how he felt about working there. How was it being all by himself, working on orders, surrounded by pizza boxes? Perhaps he was lonely. Perhaps he couldn’t wait to get another job. Perhaps he couldn’t stop thinking how he could not do it anymore and how he had to figure out an escape plan; how things had to change and how he would need to get another job. Perhaps a professional job in an office, would be nice. Somewhere where he would make small talk with his co-workers around the water cooler, talk sports. On TV that’s what people in offices do. Maybe he would have a crush on the front desk girl. He would go on fantasizing about his front-desk crush. Building a dream life in a thought bubble.
But what if the guy was happy in his pizza shop? What if running that pizza shop was his life’s dream and he had achieved it? He had been working in pizza shops his whole life, pretty much, and finally he had been able to save up and open his very own pizza shop. Not having to listen to anyone boss him around or complain, he was now responsible for all losses and gains. His family would come and visit him and sit at the lone table to eat the pizza he would make for them. His kids would think it was the best pizza ever. He knew that the secret to the best tasting pizza is to make it in your own pizza shop, with your own hands, with all the care and love in the world for the people who matter to you the most. He was the king of the pizza shop. He was content.
I walked to the grocery store. It was darker now, a night with perfect temperature. I was in a good mood. I walked past a Dunkin Donuts. I glanced in and saw a couple sitting at a table making out. They looked very happy and very into each other. Which you have to be to make out in a harshly lit coffee shop. They would look at each other for a second, smile and then dive into each other’s face, their hands all over each other’s body. What was their story, I wondered. I decided they were having an illicit affair. Both of them were married (to other people) and had kids. They had offered to do grocery shopping and they were able to to sneak in to Dunkin Donuts for a little bit to catch up. In that rather unromantic environment they had eyes for no one else. America might run on Dunkin, but these two were running on their infatuation for each other.
“I’ve missed you,” they would say. “It’s so difficult to get a minute to myself,” one of them would say. “No more talking,” their eyes would say, interlocking hands over steaming mediocre coffee. “I think I’m ready to do it,” she would say. A dark cloud would pass through his eyes, but for a second only. Then he would smile, his eyes would go bright and excited, and he would grab her tiny hand in his hand, and kiss it a thousand times. And that is how it always goes in the badly lit coffee shop, there is hope for a minute. In the end they would go their separate ways, go back to their ordinary lives. They would carve out a little space inside their minds and hearts and fill it with desire, longing for each other’s body, and elaborate getaway plans. They would go in that little space to escape until the next time they meet again.