Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Way David Eats Pizza

Exboyfriend Material

It’s three a.m. on the 27th floor of an apartment building on the edge of Hell’s Kitchen, and I am sitting across from David Lafuente, watching him eat pizza.

I arrived in Manhattan two days ago and caught an Uber straight to David’s apartment. He greeted me at the door and ushered me inside. Upon entering, my eyes were drawn across the living room to the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the city beyond 37th Street, framing a breathtaking landscape of towers. Standing there, looking out over Midtown West, I wished for a dry erase marker. The view begged for contextual labels: arrows addressing the names of buildings and dividing lines along neighborhood borders. Now, days later, the world behind the glass feels less dioramatic and more like flat wallpaper. The New York skyline has become a vinyl cling from Urban Outfitters, in front of which David and me eat pizza.

Earlier this evening, we were walking home from a bar when David nodded to a bright red awning several blocks away. “You wanted some really good pizza, no?” David always punctuates his questions with a firmly inflected “no,” which I find charmingly European, even though he’s Mexican. I was still stuffed from dinner, but I was also drunk, which means I was starving. David launches into Spanish with the man behind the counter and I allow my mind to drift while he takes care of business. I bend at the waist to inspect the giant display pizzas. Each one is pale and unappetizing, which makes me feel sad for the slices that don't get to reanimate in the oven. My pizza grief takes an upswing when David shoves a warm cardboard box into my hands and says, “Let’s go home.”

Back at the apartment, the living room is dense with pot. When David opens a window, the faraway noises of New York travel on cool air and reach me at the coffee table. He walks into the kitchen then returns with plates, silverware, napkins, stemware, and wine. He sets places for the two of us and settles in.

I’ve never seen anyone eat pizza the way David eats pizza. First, he uses a knife and fork to remove all the toppings — rolling and piling pepperoni, Italian sausage, and gobs of cheese into a meaty queso fundido. This heap sits alongside the flat triangle crust, which, for lack of a better euphemism, appears skinned alive. He spins his plate around and saws off a small segment of the crust. Then, with knife and fork, he rolls the half-inch of crust in the molten cheese mixture and pops it into his mouth. He repeats this process over and over with elegant precision — coating bite-size morsels of crust with mozzarella and huge pieces of meat. He does not eat the body of the pizza (the wide, doughy triangle lacquered with marinara), but instead, he sets it aside and moves on the next slice. I can only stare in rapt bewilderment while I attempt to shotgun my entire slice.

It’s funny how uncovering a small quirk — a little oddity just under the surface — can completely change the way you see a person. It’s why I don’t discuss porn with my best friends. And now, here I am, re-framing the way I think about David Lafuente while he meticulous scrapes the toppings off his second slice of pizza before chopping up the crust.

I used to think he was incredibly handsome, back when we met in Playa del Carmen. During sex, I would stare at his face, studying his strong chin and dark chocolate eyes. I liked the way he told stories about growing up in Mexico City and about running a restaurant in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I stood with him on our balcony and watched the star-scattered sky over Playa del Carmen before kissing his lips and falling into his arms. When he left the next morning, I cried because I never thought I’d see him again.

Over the years, I remembered our time together romantically. We fell out of touch, but regularly liked pictures on Instagram and posts on Facebook, small gestures to remind the other of his existence. Months ago, when an opportunity to visit New York popped up, he was the first person that came to mind.

Lately, my boyfriend and I haven't been getting along.

In fact, we got in a very serious argument before I boarded the plane.

I try calling him every few minutes and he doesn't pick up. In his texts, he says it's over.

So earlier this evening, I decided to get fucked up and have sex with David, just to spite my boyfriend. I got obliterated at dinner and then continued to pound one vodka tonic after another at the gay bar. My flirting was shameless and obvious, but I didn't have anything to lose, so I didn't care how it looked. Finally, I suggested we head home because his bed was the only place in Manhattan I wanted to be. And on the way back, we stopped for pizza.

Everything was going according to plan, until he started this weird, mystifying ritual with his food. I want to ask him why he's doing this, but I bet his response will annoy me.

Right now, he's watching me cram a second slice down my throat and I can see a tinge of horror in his face. He thinks I'm gross and I think he's an asshole for dismembering perfectly fine pizza. "It's good, no?" he says. Suddenly, I don't find the way he punctuates his questions with a firmly inflected “no" charmingly European. I find it ridiculous. "It's fucking great!" I say, only it sounds completely muffled because I have a whole slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza lodged into my mouth like an oversized duffle bag in an overhead compartment. His eyebrows furrow and the mood changes dramatically. We are both wading in a river of wine, vodka, marinara sauce, and sudden contempt for one another.

When we finish, he clears the dishes and I curl up on the couch with a brand new joint. "Are you coming to bed?" he asks from the doorway of his room. "Nah," I say, lighting the joint and inhaling deeply. "I'll crash here tonight." He almost looks relieved. "Sweet," he says. "Night!" And just like that, he closes the door and leaves me alone in the living room.

A cool breeze turns the pages of an open book on the coffee table. Through the window, I can see an army of giants stalking me; a million glowing eyes watching the loneliest man in New York.

Tomorrow, I will call my boyfriend again.

I will call him over and over.

And when I get back to New Orleans that evening, I will try to work this out because he is the real man of my dreams.

I will ask him to meet me at my apartment in the heart of the Lower Garden District.

When he gets there, I will have his favorite pizza waiting for him.

Then, we will sit on my bed, across from one another, and eat each slice from tip to crust, like two normal people who also happen to be in love.

Monday, October 10, 2016


I’ve never told you this, but in the morning, when you’re still asleep, I put my face as close as I can to yours. 

I lay next to you in intimate, wordless solitude, the tips of our noses nearly touching. I gage your breathing and adjusting mine so that we’re alternating breaths. When you breathe out, I breathe in.

Sometimes I keep my eyes closed and sometimes I watch you — taking in your face, feature to feature. When I look at you from across the dinner table or in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth, I can clearly see that you have the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen. But at close range [at a distance where I can feel your breath and your body heat and the life buzzing around your face], you are somehow even more breathtaking. Up close, you are a perfect collage of shapes and colors. Sharp black punctures, soft angular shadows, and a pale rosy glow just under your skin.

When you stir or tussle, I run my fingertips through your thick blond hair or lay my palm flatly across the side of your face, just to reassure you that I’m here.

Sometimes I kiss you on the forehead or right on the lips. I press my lips softly against your face and hope it reaches you, wherever you are in your dreams.

On days when we have to be up early for work, I savor your nearness intensely. On weekends, I can do this for hours. And it’s always my favorite part of the day.

Sometimes, in the quiet stillness of my bedroom, I tell you I’m sorry.

I tell you I’m sorry for not always being a great boyfriend.

I tell you I’m sorry for fraying the friable trust we’ve built with my crippling insecurities.

I tell you I’m sorry for continually breaking your heart.

I tell you I’m sorry within inches from your face, while you are sleeping because your silence and beauty feel the same as forgiveness.

In my heart, I want to stay with you and work this out. Because I love you so much that I enjoy the simple pleasure of breathing the same air as you.

But you can go.

And I can let you go.

The future won’t be so painful with all these memories I have — treasuring your face in the moments before you wake up, sleepily look me in the eyes and say, “I love you.”