Primo Piano

I get dressed, but only to answer the door for the delivery guy. Because most people in this town actually make food or go out to get it, they only seem to dispatch one person per neighborhood from Just Eat. As a result, he now knows who I am. Because I’m limited in my ability to convince people that I’m Italian once I start speaking in that uncertain, non-emphatic way (it truly is a language that requires a level of full-time passion I simply don’t have), he can’t quite figure me out. He is also probably unclear about how someone can spend so much time in their apartment without ever leaving to get “real” food, as it were. But what he doesn’t know is that compared to America, even the shittiest Italian food tastes gourmet to my formerly thrashed palate. So, thus far, I’ve instead seemed to convince him that I’m either a stoner or a mildly challenged being. Maybe both.

He has the sort of hair that Brian Littrell did in the heyday of the Backstreet Boys. An earring is something I either imagine him wearing every time I see him, or, in my mind’s eye, it just feels as though that’s what he should have as an accessory to go with his general aesthetic. The first time I buzz him in, I forget to tell him a very important piece of information: primo piano. First floor. So for five minutes I stand at the door in anger, wondering what the fuck is taking so long, when this whole time, it’s been my fault. I guess I could say that about a lot of the interactions and relationships I’ve had. He hands me the sixty-six centilitre Peroni–it was only one euro difference between that and thirty-three centilitre, so what the fuck do you think I’m going to choose? As I start to walk away with just the beer in tow, wanting nothing more than to get this exchange over with the same way I would in New York, he calls, “Vuoi il resto?”

I stop in my tracks, sliding slightly on the smooth marble floor as a result of running down in no shoes. I fear somehow the door will be locked if I wait much longer, leave it unattended for even only a few more seconds. I scurry back to him and dumbly receive the box he presents to me, the words, “Che Pizza!” scrawled on the front. But it’s not pizza, it’s focaccia goddammit, yet I’m still made to feel like an inordinate fat ass because of the packaging it comes in. And that was only on the first night.

Night two: pasta orecchiette with pesto and a mixed salad. Another order of beer. A small Heineken. This time, I’m sure to shout, “Primo piano!” into the intercom, not wanting to make the same mistake of careening down the steps in my tights and a nightgown posing as a slip dress, all when I’m paying for a service that’s actually more valuable here because you don’t have to tip the little asshole.

He eyes me suspiciously, as though wanting to say something about my spinsterly life choices in a country that thrives on romance. Or is perceived to thrive on romance. I grab the bag and slip him exact change before he can develop the congenital Italian chutzpah to do so.

Night three: Minestrone and salad. I’m trying to be modesta. If I’m going to endure the shame and branding of this ordering in stigma, maybe I can minimize it with a healthy order. Not that the delivery guy really keeps tabs on what’s in there, but maybe the sheer levity of the bag it comes in will connote to him a particular daintiness. Tonight, however, is different. Because instead of hearing the buzzer, I just hear a knock at the door. He managed to get in and is already well-aware that I’m primo piano, and probably prima donna. Or rather, donna sola–living in a dormitory for god’s lost children. I seem to be the only one ever at home. Maybe everyone else is doing their hustle while I sit here eating, trying to figure it all out. It being what to do with my extremely limited skill set. Among those limitations: interacting with the public.

Night four: Fuck it. Pizza. Beer. Bulging gut be damned. This man must be utterly repulsed by me. But then, aren’t they all? On this particular evening, I’ve taken the time to put my face on, formerly thinking that I might leave the premises for an engagement with one of the only souls in town I know: Alessia. We encountered one another at a meet-up on the Upper West Side for those interested in engaging in a serious conversation about the films of Roberto Rossellini. Thus, an instant kinship was formed when we turned out to be the only two people to show up for it apart from an older man in his fifties who perhaps thought it would be a good place to meet “sophisticated” women. And as I let out an enormous belch after guzzling half of the beer, I laugh. Some people were simply put on this earth to make the masses uncomfortable. I think that’s what my purpose must be. To unsettle all those I come into contact with, remind them that at least they’re not this much of a freak.

Night five: Spaghetti bolognese, caprese and mixed greens. I had to meet a minimum balance for my shopping cart. So I add in beer, too. One day, Just Eat is going to get their shit together and add restaurants that offer wine in the Italian market.

What I estimate to be sixth time of use of the “intermediary service” in as many days, he seems to think that all boundaries between us are at this point null and void, suddenly seeing fit to ask, “Cosa hai?” I don’t respond. He presses, “Sei malata?” In Italy, you have to be mentally ill to be antisocial.

I mumble, “L’erba.” It’s always easier for people to think that I’m high than genuinely apprehend that, no, this is my state of being. But I’m suddenly caught in the lie as I soon realize Manuel (yes, it’s an Italian name, too–not just a Spanish one) is inviting himself in, hoping to join in my presumed state of elevated consciousness.

And that’s how, without ever leaving my house, I found myself in a moment of intimacy. Obviously, I can never order from Just Eat again unless I move to a different neighborhood where a different delivery man will be assigned. Or maybe going from the primo to secondo piano would throw him off the scent of my identity. All I know is, maybe I do owe Manuel a tip for forcing me to leave the house. Even if only for meals.

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