His fingers thundered across the keyboard.
He was only writing footnote citations, but found the task strangely relaxing. No, they technically wouldn’t add to the 4,000 more words he needed to write by noon — a mere nine hours away — but they provided an opportunity to turn the brain off and just put something on paper.
Back to writing on the U.N.’s responsibility to protect doctrine as it applied to Libya, he tapped out a new section heading, flipped open one of his many source books and leaned in as though ready to charge forward.
He wrote an introductory sentence, which was little more than a restatement of the section heading with a bit more detail. The long pause that followed made him flop backward into his seat, as a look of frustration swept across his face.
His eyes shot skyward, as if in prayer, perhaps asking for guidance or sending up some promise to start earlier next time, or help more poor kids, or whatever it is he prayed about those days.
Next, he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, as though trying to physically exorcise out the demons slowing progress on the last assignment of his first semester back at grad school.
Mid-meditation, his stomach grumbled.
Happy for the distraction, he thought for a second, then opened up a web browser and surfed to a food delivery website. His monitor quickly displayed the dozens — perhaps hundreds — of restaurants that delivered to his address; God, he loved New York.
His admiration was short-lived, however, for as he scrolled through the list, he realized that he hadn’t yet limited his search to restaurants that were “Open now.” Doing so left him with just two options: a sandwich shop he’d ordered from earlier that day and the Papa John’s pizza chain. He chose the latter and a few clicks was all he needed to order something completely frugal and completely sensible — a personal pizza with cheese.
“That’s basically a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup,” he rationalized.
He brought himself back to his paper, feeling more accomplished and motivated than he should about being able to order a pizza.
He had typed out just a couple words when he heard the unmistakable keyboard riff that introduces Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”
He hit the answer key on his cell phone.
“Hi, is this Mario Boni… Boni…?” came the voice on the other end.
“Yes, this is he.” He wanted to tell people to just read left to right like every other word whenever they struggled. “What’s up?”
“Yeah, this is Papa John’s. We got your order, but can’t deliver anything smaller than a medium.”
“Oh, and we’re running a special right now where you can get any of our ‘lovers’ pizzas for the same price, so that’s veggie lovers, meat lovers, pep-…”
Mario cut him off.
“Give me the meat lovers,” he said. “Obviously.”
He wound up the rest of the conversation quickly and got back to his paper.
He was writing about the ugly episodes of the 1990s now; Bosnia, Rwanda, retaliation in Kosovo, doctrinal changes in Sierra Leone. But no sooner had he gotten back into a groove than did he hear his apartment doorbell ring.
He sprinted from his room down the long hallway to the front door, trying his best to beat a second ring in hopes of not waking his roommate. He ripped the big, wooden door back catching the Papa John’s deliveryman as his finger moved toward the doorbell.
Finally with the food in view, Mario accepted his pizza with a look of perplexity. He had always been impressed by the efficiency of food delivery in New York, but also confused, and a little suspicious. Even if he had all the supplies ready, he doubted that he could finish the prep work in the time since the phone call, let alone bake, box, and deliver the finished product.
He shook himself out of his thoughts to see the deliveryman lingering. He opened up his wallet, thanked the man while handing him a few bucks and shut the door.
He brought the pizza back to his computer desk and opened it up. It truly was a ridiculous amount of meat atop a truly ridiculously amount of pie for one person; he could easily make two meals out of it. Heck, a family of four in any country other than America could probably make two meals out of it.
He was pondering excess in this country, childhood obesity in particular, and public health solutions to all these things when he looked down and noticed that somehow, he had already eaten the first half of his pizza.
He hadn’t even had the cognizance to enjoy a single bite.
He would do that now, he told himself. He closed his eyes and savored bite number one of the seventh slice of 12.
He set the pizza off to the corner. He could refrigerate it in a few minutes after a little more writing.
And write he did!
For a while.
But it was clear there was something unsettling to him about a partially eaten half-pizza — even if that “partial” amount was just one bite.
In 12 hours, he would be at the hospital, complaining of chest pains. The pretty African girl from a country he couldn’t locate on a map before meeting her in class would accompany him. He hadn’t yet decided if he thought that they would fall for each other romantically or become passive-aggressive arch-nemeses — or if they would, as often prompted by his fear of commitment, do both, in series. Through a number of tests, the all-female cadre of nurses and doctors on duty that day would conclude that his heart was indeed fine and that the chest pains came from a combination of bad posture, indigestion, and lack of sleep. Out of the corner of his eye, he would notice that the African girl’s olive-skinned face had a look of concern, but also the slightest tinge of jealousy at seeing his shirtless torso being prodded by other women. He would think that this might be important to remember.
He looked down again; the second half of pizza had disappeared as quickly as the first.
He got to work. Then, he felt his stomach grumble again — this time, in a way different from the first.
And that was the first time he had ever eaten a whole pizza by himself.