I used to work as a Pizzaiolo in Pittsburgh, and a fellow pizza maker (was his name Carl? I can never remember names of acquaintances from far ago) was head over heels over a girl.
I thought that was great: nothing greater than that fresh feeling of being in love, like picking up a suit from the dry cleaner when the starch still holds all the wrinkles at bay and all the lines in crisp place.
Soon after, he told me that they were going to get married.
“How long have you known each other?” That’s always the question, isn’t it, when it comes to marriage? As though time were the great validator.
His response was a little timid, somewhat blushed.
Six months, (or maybe less than that, my memory is so bad).
Well that wasn’t so terrible, I thought. I’ve heard of couples getting married after just a few months or, heck, a few weeks of knowing.
“But we’ve only met twice,” he said.
They had been pen pals, he explained. They had written such wonderful, romantic, poetic letters to each other. Hand-written, none-the-less. In ink. On real paper. These weren’t just email. They were tangible. Real. They were in real love. The purest sense.
I was divided in my reaction. There was such a fluttering hope in his face and in his voice as he told me all about this woman. I didn’t want to dash it by saying, “Are you freaking crazy? You don’t know this woman at all. You just know a portrayal of this woman. Not even an honest diary of her.”
But I wasn’t married myself. I was barely 20. Who was I to give marital advice?
At the same time, I wanted to be hopeful for him. I didn’t want to assume that this was going to be a disaster waiting to happen. I’m sure there were enough people in his life already cautioning him, giving him counsel, advice, telling him he was freaking crazy for considering marriage with a piece of paper.
I wished him well.
I didn’t see him again for months. He moved to a different city. Married his love-letter bride. Then came back to visit our restaurant maybe a year later.
I don’t remember almost anything about his wife. She was a brunette and not with any striking looks. He didn’t introduce her to me. In fact, he didn’t introduce her to anyone. They sat at the front counter, ordered two Neapolitan pizzas and ate in silence. His body was slouched. Both of their faces stared into their own plates.
Maybe a bad day, I hoped? A momentary argument that had just taken place?
I didn’t know. I didn’t ask. I smiled politely at him as I served their pizzas, and Carl just nodded at me like we had seen one another every mundane day for the last year, and I had simply served him his usual order.
What had been in those letters I wondered? How had they fooled themselves so convincingly?
That was one of many opportunities that taught me that love wasn’t something you fell into. Because if you could fall in love, you could fall for anything. It was one of the many examples that clarified love as a verb and not as adjective.
(Feature photo by ra3iatha)