It was a winter of unemployment, which meant a hyper-intense amount of never leaving the apartment. Exiting into the outside world was no longer an option in my mind; I had retired, and anyone who wanted to see me would have to come to my doorstep. Furthermore, I was not feeling particularly confident about showing my person to anyone other than my computer screen. In between catching up on the later episodes of Peep Show, I decided it might be time to consume some sort of sustenance as it had quite possibly been about two days since the last time I thought it necessary to eat. I should have sensed the impending difficulty of procuring the subpar pizza based on the suspect amount of time I had to wait for the page to load after placing my order and by the fact that the thermometer monitor they have to track progress was stalled at the “Prep” phase for an hour.
At an hour and fifteen minutes, I was officially worried and officially foraging through my barren cupboards for an appetizer to keep me going if I was ever going to finish my Peep Show marathon, as well as write the great American novel. I scrounged a questionably old packet of miso soup and proceeded to follow the instructions for microwaving it, only to get shocked backward by a malfunctioning fuse. The microwave was now busted, and I was only using it because the pilot lights on the stove could not—would not—be lit and I was still waiting for the gas man or whoever to come and fix it.
Being that my roommate, LaQuenta, whose age I couldn’t discern, had a time-consuming barista job in Carroll Gardens (a facet of her life she liked to remind me of whenever she got the chance), it was more often than not left to me to take on such housewifely duties as waiting for repair men to show up. I was quickly learning they never did, just like my Domino’s pizza it seemed. The worst part was, it’s not even like my order was complicated or asking the preparer, whose name was Donecia according to the thermometer monitor, to go above and beyond her capabilities. I cursed my refusal to leave the house as I abstractly wielded a santoku knife as a screwdriver toward the back of the microwave, imagining myself to be a single independent woman in a Nancy Meyers movie, with a unique competency that exempt me from needing help from anyone, man or otherwise.
The microwave crackled at me again, so I unplugged it, the cold, powdery miso soup mix left in a promotional bowl with the Inglourious Basterds logo on it that I had snagged from an internship at a certain production company that yielded little in the way of knowledge other than how to feel the same level of significance as a barnacle on a whale each day. A sadness washed over me and I wished it was 2009 again (that was when Inglourious Basterds came out, in case you forgot).
I returned to the comfort of my bed, soiled with cum stains that were mostly my own. I pulled the comforter over myself and tried my best to drown out the sound of my grumbling stomach by turning up the volume to hear the tail end of Mark saying, “…one of those things where a cherished dream is smashed into your face.” It couldn’t have been a more well-timed sentence considering that my cherished dream of eating pizza wasn’t just smashed, but quite possibly utterly obliterated.
In that instant, a simple stroke of genius hit me: I would order another pizza. This time, just plain cheese to make it even easier for them. I could thereby test my theory that the universe was assuredly out to sabotage me if Domino’s failed to note my order of two pizzas and accordingly pick up the motherfucking pace. After clicking the place order button, the thermometer gave me hope by jumping from “Order Placed” to “Prep” to “Bake” in the span of just twenty minutes. But alas, there it would stay for another hour, while my pepperoni pizza was still stuck at “Prep.” It was then I knew for certain: God hated me.
Worst of all, I was running out of Peep Show episodes to watch. It was becoming a race against time now, as eating is always made more enjoyable by doing so while watching a show or movie. Who can say why? That’s just how it is. When the pizza finally did come, I would have to eat it in silence, with no distraction to take me away from the reality that I was a 33-year-old woman sitting in filthy sheets and surrounded by stacks of books without shelves. I would have to take these sights in while eating—a sacred act—further ruining my enjoyment of this impossible-to-obtain pizza.
Three hours and seventeen minutes had gone by. Peep Show was long over and I had moved on to the much bleaker British show, League of Gentlemen, but not before opening my window to feel the frigid air as I chain smoked and let the breeze blow the human stench emanating from my pajamas off of me a bit. Before I started the third episode of the first season, I ordered another pizza. It had everything you could imagine on it: bacon, pepperoni, “champagne” ham, onions, mozzarella, chicken, red peppers, olives, spinach, pulled pork—fucking everything. This brought me up to a grand total of thirty-five dollars with two bottles of soda included. There was no goddamn way they could ignore me now. The thermometer got all the way up to the “Box” phase, but refused to jump to the final step, “Delivery.”
And so, after wasting approximately fifty-five dollars on pizza that was never going to arrive, I did the unthinkable: I picked up my phone and called the location, situated on the cross streets of Eastern Parkway and Utica Avenue. The line was busy. I was not going to leave my house, no matter what, I told myself. This is what they wanted me to do. This was their evil ploy all along: to get me to peel my makeshift loungewear off (three-dollar Forever 21 workout pants and an oversized Rihanna t-shirt) and depart from my ivory tower. Well, I was wise to their game and I wasn’t going to give in. I called repeatedly, ad nauseum, really—hitting the call back button on my phone every time it went to a busy signal.
This extremely taxing task detracted from paying the full attention necessary to absorb League of Gentlemen, which made me curse the day Domino’s was ever founded—June 10, 1960, to be exact (incidentally, June 10 is also the day George W. Bush declared to be “Jesus Day” while he was governor of Texas). How could they toy with me this way? Didn’t they understand I was at their mercy? That second, the phone actually rang. I jumped in surprise, forgetting suddenly the rehearsed diatribe I had for Donecia, my alleged pizza preparer.
After countless rings that amounted to approximately six minutes of wait time, an automated recording came on that said: “Due to unusually high order volumes at this time, we are unable to answer the phone.” Click. That was it. No option to hold, no number to press to speak to an operator. Nothing. Fucking nothing. The summation of my entire life, encapsulated by a non-exchange with Domino’s. It was then I knew they had won: I would have to go there in person, prompting an epic wave of anxiety that set me back at least an hour and a half in my legitimate preparations to get ready, i.e. take a shower. How unjust it is that one must make herself presentable to the outside world when those in it care so little for her, barely registering her existence, unless, of course, her malodorousness catches the attention of their nostrils. It made me loathe what I was about to do—submit myself to the perilous dangers of human interaction—even more.
Once out on the street, I immediately felt just like a whore, prostituting myself for Domino’s, compromising my entire belief system in being a hermit just because they couldn’t deliver their promise, literally. Was it always this cold during the winter? I wondered as a gust of wind knocked me backward, awakening me to the very real idea that I was no longer anywhere near the comfort of my bed. This was going to be a journey riddled with disaster.
After only walking a paltry two blocks, an irate homeless person—one of the last still holding out on the sidewalk to panhandle instead of retreating to a shelter in this blustering climate—took offense to my standoffishness and shouted out, “Hey white girl, why can’t you spare a dollar, huh?” Ah yes, my favorite epithet, “white girl,” had been used, adding to the endless reasons why I avoided walking through my neighborhood at all costs. I hated it more than anything, having my race used against me, reminded of it lest I could possibly forget. He had really touched a nerve in my fragile state, which is why I mistakenly chose to engage him by shouting back, “I’m unemployed.”
He laughed uproariously for what seemed like days. “Oh yeah? Me too. But how come I’m out here and you up there?”
I didn’t dawdle any longer to answer his question, picking up my stride in spite of the pain my muscles felt in being used for purposes other than clenching in delight over the frequent use of my dildo. Five blocks later, another catastrophe struck: my shoelace became untied unbeknownst to me. Stopped at a crosswalk, the lace lied in wait for me to walk again, knowing full well what was coming next. That’s right, face plant into snow. I didn’t get up right away. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t have drawn so much attention. But alas, this expedition was destined to draw attention as, minutes later, an ambulance had pulled up as a result of an onlooking boutique owner calling them rather than coming outside to check on me herself.
The attractive (because why wouldn’t he be?) male EMT jumped out and ran toward me as I was collecting myself upon hearing the sound of the siren. Beyond my damaged pride, my shoe had also been sacrificed, ripped down the side from the abrupt fall. Jerry, as I soon learned his name was, asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I just tripped. That’s all. Better be on my way.”
“Maybe we should check to see if you sprained your ankle.”
Before I knew what was happening, he was lifting me up as though carrying me over a threshold, that threshold being my sanity. I had never been in the back of an ambulance before and I didn’t think I would be in one so soon in life, but it somehow felt cozy, like I belonged there.
Jerry had removed what was left of my shoe and then took off my sock—it was all offbeatly erotic—and then proceeded to massage my ankle to see if I would cry out in pain. I did. So yes, just seven blocks into the quest to Domino’s, I had sustained an injury. This is why you never leave your apartment, no matter how dire. Your physical health will be sacrificed. Jerry methodically bandaged my foot, ginger in his movements. He really was a professional. Entranced by his general amazingness, I failed to register him asking, “Is there someone who can come and get you?”
After the third time he said it, I returned, “No. But I need to get somewhere.”
Jerry regarded me quizzically. “Where?”
“Domino’s on Utica,” I replied with the gravity of a pallbearer.
Sensing my seriousness, Jerry cautioned, “I can’t take you anywhere in this ambulance without it costing you a minimum of five thousand dollars, are you aware of that?”
“Right. Yes.” I stared at my foot. “Can you just call me a cab?”
With that, Jerry called me a car and I was on my way again.
Hobbling into the Domino’s now was anticlimactic. It was just how I pictured it: fluorescent lighting, employees with grotesque complexions wrought by a greasy environment and an overall aura of no one giving a shit. It didn’t seem half as busy as their automated phone message was intended to lead one to believe.
Limping to the register, where a corn-rowed teen named Devonte was standing, I gave him my case in one sentence: “I ordered three pizzas from your website and none of them have been delivered.”
“Uh, okay. Like, let me go get my manager.”
Next came Julissa, a portly Hispanic woman in her forties who still didn’t exude half the amount of patheticness that I did.
“What’s the problem ma’am?” She said ma’am almost as an insult rather than as a sign of respect.
“As I told Devonte, I ordered three pizzas from your website and none of them have been delivered. This was about five hours ago now.”
“Why you order three?” she demanded.
“To see if the system would be reminded of my existence,” I responded sedately.
She looked at me understandingly now, as though she knew she was dealing with an unstable person.
“Lemme see… I’ll go check our kitchen for any undelivered orders. Wha your last name?”
Julissa lumbered away, leaving Devonte to silently judge me. I went to sit down in a nearby booth, gazing at the weirdos who would subject themselves to the none too favorable appraisal of outside passersby seeing them eat.
Ten minutes later, Julissa returned, waddling out from behind her perch to sit across from me. She set a business card down on the table.
“We have no record of any orders you placed. You’re gonna have to call Domino’s corporate headquarters to speak with them about it.”
She pushed the card in my direction as though it was a golden ticket and not the representation of my entire baneful life.
“Great. Thanks for your help,” I sputtered, not even bothering to tell her that I had incurred an injury to get there.
I never did call Domino’s corporate headquarters. I imagined it would only breed more problems. Instead, I stopped at a bodega and bought ten boxes of mac and cheese and a few pieces of fruit. That was the last time I ever ordered from Domino’s, or any pizza delivery chain come to think of it.