“Can we stop at Chanello’s and pick up a pizza on the way home?”
Reed hadn’t even shut the car door before he asked. He must have been hungry.
“Did you order it already?” I asked. I don’t mind making a quick stop, but I lose money if I have to wait for long.
“Yeah. It should be ready.”
“Then, yes. Do I get a slice? I’m kind of hungry.”
“Sure, dude. That’s a deal.”
I picked up Reed and Casey at Hot Tuna pretty close to closing time.
They made an interesting couple. Casey is tall and pretty, with shiny, shoulder-length hair. She was decked out in a summer dress and heels. Reed looked a good three inches shorter. He wasn’t heavy exactly, but sort of squarish. His blond hair was a spiky mess.
They’d both been drinking of course, but Reed made it more obvious.
“I’m in this super awkward situation,” he said, “Tell me you are prepared for a totally awkward comment.”
“Absolutely. Especially if it’s interesting. I’ve had kind of a boring night.”
“I…love this girl so much…”
“Oh, my God, Reed. Shut up.” She was embarrassed, but obviously not really displeased.
“So, when you say this girl, you mean the one that’s next to you?” I clarified.
“Yes. The one that’s in the car. You solved it, man. You solved the mystery.”
“So, what’s the awkward part?” I asked. “Because that’s not awkward at all.”
“The awkward part is about her…you know…doing what she does.”
“You mean, not reciprocating?”
“No. She reciprocates in her way. It’s just…. I don’t know. I guess it’s not awkward.”
“That didn’t make any sense at all,” said Casey.
“I feel honored that you would share this with me,” I said.
“I like your scene, ‘cuz you’re like, entertained right now, and you can totally handle it, and like, whatever, dude.”
I parked right in front of Chanello’s. Reed went in to get the pizza. Chanello’s is a pick-up and delivery only place. No tables. Just a counter behind a big window. We watched him from the car.
As Reed acquired the pizza, Casey confided in me.
“I’ve known Reed for like a year, but, like, we have a ten-year age gap.”
I turned around to get a better look at her. I wouldn’t have guessed there was much of a difference.
“Yeah, I’m twenty-two. Reed’s almost thirty-three.”
“Why does that matter?”
“It’s not the age, really. It’s just that he’s getting ready to settle down and I’m totally not. It’s not like I want to be with somebody else, I’m just not ready for that right now. I mean, I think he’s fabulous, and he wants me to do what I want to do, but it’s like, I can almost hear his biological clock ticking.
“He bought a nice house, and I can tell he wants to have kids, and I just can’t see that happening for me for like…seven to ten years.”
She explained that she had just started a three-year program to become a physical therapist.
“So, I can’t even think about, you know–I can’t even say the word…”
“You mean marriage?”
“Oh–Jesus. Yeah. That’s not even in my vocabulary right now.”
As we talked, we watched Reed receive and pay for the pizza. Then he opened it up on the counter. He tore open a packet of red pepper and sprinkled the contents on the pizza. Then he repeated the action with another packet. And another. Then he started with the Parmesan cheese packets. He applied these ingredients with surprising intensity, holding the packet high and carefully managing the distribution.
“What the hell is he doing?” Casey asked.
“He is apparently very serious about Parmesan cheese.”
“He is so ridiculous. I’ll go get him.”
“No. It’s fine. This is entertaining. It’s like watching an artist at work.”
“If he does one more, I’m going to kill him.”
He did one more and Casey got out, opened the shop door and yelled something at him I couldn’t hear. Reed closed the box and followed her back to the car.
They dug into the pizza immediately, handing me a hot slice. We ate in silence for several minutes.
“This hits the spot. Thanks for the slice.”
“No problem. Thanks for waiting.”
“You know what I think makes this pizza so amazing?” I said. “The Parmesan.”
“Hell, yeah!” said Reed.
“Shut the f– up,” said Casey.
They live together in a beautiful new home in a recently gentrified section of Ocean View. It has a big, well-lit porch and a nice, recently-mowed yard. A quiet little neighborhood. Casey went up the steps with the pizza box. Reed seemed a bit lost and headed toward the side of the house until she called him impatiently. He smiled and zig-zagged up onto the porch behind her.