I ran to save a table at our favorite pizza parlor, as my mom ordered a few slices of Sicilian. We had been going to Sal’s Pizzeria at least once a week for as long as I could remember, and I knew the routine well. I loved the faux-stone walls and the faded wood veneer tables. The walls of the bathroom, which were once painted pink, were turning black from everyone’s gratified declaration that they were there. Sal’s was legendary in Westchester, and there was always a line out the door, so I took my duty of seat saving with the utmost seriousness.
On this particular day, a family occupied the one large round table that I wanted, so I took the booth next to them. Since they were right in front of me, I couldn’t help but watch them. A mom, dad, and three teenage sons. The youngest was around my age, and so I couldn’t help imagining what it would be like to date him, an uncontrollable habit that lasted the majority of my teen years. The mom was yelling something at one of her sons, while the dad rested his head in his hands. As time went by, I realized he was keeping his head down longer than usual. His neck looked swollen and red.
“Dad?” the youngest boy asked.
“Dad!” Another boy shouted, standing up so quickly his chair fell backwards.
The mom pushed the father’s shoulder back and his hands fell down, revealing his sweaty face, and drooling mouth.
As the family cried out in panic, I looked around the noisy pizzeria, and it seemed like no one else was noticing what was happening. For a moment I thought I was imagining it all. I looked for my mom in line, and she was giving me her pantomime for “get napkins, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes.”
Still in helpless shock, I looked back at the family. By now the father was on the floor, and one of the sons had unbuttoned his shirt. One of the older cooks walking by, told them that he called 911. Now people were starting to turn and look at the man on the floor. It was silent for the first time in Sal’s history. The cook sneered at the onlookers. “Get a life,” he muttered in a thick Italian accent, and then retreated to the kitchen.
The emergency workers pushed through the crowd, and strapped the man to a gurney. The youngest boy cried, as his mom held him close. The family left, and the crowd filled the void of the wake. Their table, littered with half eaten pizza slices, remained empty.
By the time my mom arrived with the metal tray of pizza, a new family occupied the table. They had no idea what had just happened in the same seats only a few minutes earlier. The pizzeria was noisy again. Life went on. The worst day for one family, was just another lunch for everyone else.
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