You’re at your desk, eyes blearing over textbook prose that flows across the page with the viscosity of tenured professors. And I’m stretched across my bed, palms cradling the flat spot on my head, taking in sounds of football and wrinkled snack food bags from the common room. Sunrays flirt across my face then disappear. A toilet flushes. Next door, Greg Privett unleashes a cacophonous fart, fitting punctuation for another plotless Sunday.
What’s say I swing by your dorm, take this college-ruled, 8” X 11” blank sheet of paper day, and scrawl upon it a story to remember? Not some corpse-heavy tragedy or box office blockbuster with state of the art effects. Just a short, modest narrative that begins with Giotto’s, drumming our fingers at the pick up window until Dominic finally hangs up with his on again off again Angela and grumbles toward us, sauce-smeared apron and all, sliding a pencil from his ear and watching with crust burning eyes while we gaze at the menu over his head, savoring all the options on our tongues, until tension has been kneaded to perfection and you order the ten, no the twelve, no the fourteen inch Fresco Peruzzi — with extra cheese, please.
Then, as in any story worth its salt, the gut aching suspense, which we’ll attempt to subdue with a stroll down Bell Street, pressing hands against storefront windows to marvel at the grain of antique bureaus and chairs—the dream furniture that will one day grace the house we vaguely plan to share. We’ll cross the pedestrian bridge, swinging hands, watch the Buckeye ambling beneath us, into and out of town, like some sordid guest in the four-star hotel of our lives. All of this walking and gawking and talking in a feeble effort to keep our minds off those succulent toppings baking on the olive oiled canvas of our pie: pepperoni slices, sweating like sun bathers; red peppers, curling like smiles, portabella mushrooms plumping like love. We’ll wait until we just can’t take it anymore, and then, spasms of deep-dish passion flashing through our bellies, we’ll clatter back over the bridge, arms out, devouring the air like hungry planes.
Alas, there will be complications — a scene that will have us chugging down Bell to Cross, curling around old men doddering down the sidewalk, slicing through hand-holding lovers, darting across the street, your held up hand keeping Corollas and Escorts at bay, all the while me holding the cardboard box with fingers and thumb and thinking ummm, ummm, ummm — how glorious you’ll be if we can only get you there, over across the street, where we’ll fling ourselves like seed onto the college green, throw open the steam-soggy cover, only to realize — no napkins!
In a burst of inspiration, I’ll scroll down my plump tomato-colored sleeves and they’ll do in a pinch, not that you’ll be too concerned, already lifting a sagging slice to your watering mouth, plunging into a well-deserved climax of melted goo, laughing at the suspension bridge of cheese streeeeeeetching from crust to oil-shiny lips, at this masterpiece of a moment — this scrumptious slice of life.
If all that weren’t enough, as we sit dazed, bursting like we’ve just consumed a wing of the campus museum of art, scrawny Jeff Eddleman will sear by in his sun orange super Nova, drumming the horn, craning out the window to say he’ll catch us at Open Mike’s at nine, where, in the world’s longest denouement, we’ll sing honky-tonk tunes we don’t much like, and drink our fair share of Rolling Rock, while Jeff, wasted as a plot device, slouches in the sticky booth reading beer bottles, bending his lips and tongue around the transcendental syllables of “Latrobe.”
As last call threatens, Stockton Rife, perpetual grad student, poet laureate of Clerestory, Ohio, will teeter up on stage, stroke his Walt Whitman beard to a pencil point, and for the hundred-thousandth time call our town of transients a woman, “flatchested, but warm.” Drunk, tired, mourning the end of this unprecedented day, we’ll feel the bell tinkle of truth in his words, experience sharp pangs of guilt over ever plotting out our futures, scheming to forget this place like some trashy summer read.
Years later, in the sprawling city of your birth, a competent husband snoring beside you, you’ll suddenly rise and drift to the window where dawn whites the pane like a blank page from a book. On that someday morning, forearms bumping in the brown leafy breeze, you’ll stand engrossed, not quite knowing what you’re looking at until, through some inexplicable science of the mind, you’re in the middle of our now classic text, savoring the words that stand in now for sights and smells and tastes...and for all the splendid arrhythmias of our early love. You’ll read closely, yet revise as well, adding and deleting, scrupulously sculpting me into the man I neither was nor would grow to be, bringing back some brand new version of what may have been the greatest story of your life, or close.
I hear the doubtful strains of your voice. I see those hazel eyes marbling into your skull. Well, it’s my story. It will end as I see fit.
©2002 by Michael Cocchiarale