It can be a harmonious dance from the cardboard box to the hand. Strands of cheese dwindle, lazily, in mid-air. With impatience, the lucky plate-holding specimen twists his index finger into the runaway fibers of cheese. He then suckles at the tip of this finger, savoring even the most minuscule flavors. One prosperous bite brings with it tidal waves of sweet tomato basil. The nose tingles in aromatic delight; the tongue weakens and quivers with salivation. Nibble, nibble, nibble. Alas, the adventurer reaches his destination; shore. Depending on this specific navigator, the mission is forfeited for another or the victory is celebrated by devouring the shore in its entirety. Crust? No crust? Whichever route is taken, a person who guides their decadent triangular slice directly to the plate from the box with haste, fails to appreciate the captivating nature of the pizza pie. They have not learned to enjoy pizza with invigorating triumph.Before I fled town, I manned the counter and the kitchen at a small pizzeria in my hometown. It was owned by a short, stout Jewish woman named Aviva. Her decrepit husband had left the business to her in his will, although Aviva knew as much about pizza as she did the inner workings of her semi-antique Volvo station wagon. Employed as a flight attendant, Aviva showed her face sparingly at the shop. I could almost always expect a bi-weekly phone call from her ending in the nasally phrase “I know nothing about that Budd; you can handle it on your own.”I was a seven day a week pizza making robot, with very little thought put into the food I was making or the customers I was serving. Of course, the route to happiness is unpredictably thrown upon the course of life. A single transaction, even at a run down pizza joint, has the ability to transform the trivial into the spectacular.Donnie’s pizza, named after the original owner’s pet basset hound, had many “ingenious” pizza names. A sausage pizza couldn’t simply be called “a sausage pizza,” it was referred to on our menu as “beef boulder pie”. An order of breadsticks was dubbed “fillers”. To this day, I remember her quirkily named order. One blood pie, Edgar Allen Poe style, all atop a fourteen inch in diameter, gluten-free crust. That is, Angelica Borras enjoyed extra helpings of pizza sauce with pepperoni and onions. Occasionally, she would request an addition of black olives, but this was rare.My first encounter with her deep-dish eyes occurred on a Halloween eve, somewhere along the timeline of my life. Donnie’s Pizzeria on Main Street closed at eight pm each night. I was sweeping up the mess from a busy afternoon when I heard the bells on the front door chime against one another. I slammed my broom into the corner of the kitchen and stomped towards the front counter. Perfect. It was 7:49 PM. Some people had no consideration for the working class.I came charging up like an ignorant bull, with my head hanging low and my feet doing all of the work. When my eyes caught up with her face, my demeanor butterflied from its solemn cocoon.Her eyes brightened and she pressed her lips together before she said it, like she’d said it to me a million times before, “Hi”.“Um, hey…what the hell are you supposed to be?”Damn it. Not what I wanted to say to her but I couldn’t think beyond her smile. The most obvious question should have been “are you okay?” Her eyeliner had leaked in a pattern directly from her eyelids to her chin. This blackness served as a haunting reminder, harnessing the backs of her tears.“Well, I’m a flight attendant, I guess.”“You guess?” I couldn’t help but smirk.She responded with a smile, tucking her chin downwards.“Um, yeah. Can I get your Edgar Allen Poe, on a gluten free crust, blood pie, please”?I had forgotten why she was here to begin with. I was hoping that she had come here for some heart-felt chat on a Halloween night, not a pizza.“What size?”“Oh yeah, um, fourteen inch, please.”“You gonna eat this whole thing by yourself?” I strained for a view of the sidewalk outside but saw no one waiting.“I can take it home. I like it better cold anyways.”I spent more time rolling the dough, more time sprinkling the cheese in an even, intricate pattern than I have ever felt inclined to with Angelica’s pizza. If this was the last time I was to ever see her, I wanted to give her something that I had never given anyone before. This pizza was my gift to her.I worked impatiently in the kitchen until her order was finished. When it was I came to the dining room to find her with her legs rested on top of a table, her heels tossed without care on the floor and her faced nuzzled in the contents of a book.“What ya reading?”She paused, looked up and investigated my face. “It’s a collection of thoughts”.“Isn’t that any book?”“Personal thoughts, it’s a diary.”“My sister passed away last October, I’m reading her diary.”I felt naked with imposition; I placed the pizza box down, her eyes following my movements.“So, um, have you been crying, I mean your make-up…you alright?”“She jumped in front of a train, I’m just trying to understand why she did it, I’m not some sort of creep.”“I didn’t…”“I was crying on purpose tonight though.”“Why would you…”“I wanted to be a heartbroken flight attendant.”I sat, perturbed, with my eyebrows clinched together in the center of my face. I noticed from up close her soft pallet of freckles that danced across the bridge of her nose and tickled her cheeks. I saw the speckles of depth in her hazel eyes. The light generously bounced from the streaks of red in her brunette hair, which she had pinned thoughtfully behind her homemade flight attendant’s cap. I knew at that moment, as she spoke fluidly in the background of my astonishment, that she would be the end of me.“…so, I just feel like if I’m going to be something novel like a flight attendant, why not add some character and depth to the ideal, why not be heartbroken”.“What idiot would break your heart? The words trickled out, uncontrollably; I was never this forward with girls.She smiled, “Some idiot who won’t hand me my pizza when I’m hungry”.I locked the doors and left the pizza shop open all night that night. Angelica abandoned her hopes of leftovers and insisted upon sharing her Edgar Allen Poe with me. We propped ourselves up in the display window, pushing aside the flashing jack-o-lantern decorations and beneath the suspended rubber bats greeting the outside world. We talked, about pizza, about her sister, about the corporate raping of national holidays. Most importantly, she sunk into my arms at the end of the night as we watched inebriated kids stumble home from the pubs. My arms had never held anything with such purpose.Before Angelica went home I placed the last slice of her pizza that remained in a small box. As I did so, I pretended to need something from the kitchen. I scrambled about the drawers, upturning all of my cleaning to find a pen. On the upper lid, on the inside of her box, my heart desperately scribbled these words:Angelica,If I never see you again, I want you to know that this pizza came from my heart because the moment your eyes met mine I knew that you were a part of me and because of this I could never give you any less than everything that I have. I hope to see you again, I’d spend a million nights, sitting at a pizza shop talking with you about your dead sister’s journal or how much you like banjo music or how mushrooms smell like sock drawers to you, if you would only give me the chance. Come eat more heartfelt pizza’s soon, beautiful. –BuddUp until Angelica, I had never wanted anything so passionately. Days had droned on. Mondays creeping their way in and idly shoving sleepy Sundays out of existence. All days were the same attention craving samples of time that always disappointed me with commonplace. Angelica was crushed red pepper on a plain cheese pizza.For months after that Halloween, Angelica came in once each week with a book, just before close and sat coyly in the corner, waiting for me to finish my work. I would always prepare her Edgar Allen Poe at the end of the day and she and I would wander off to steal a glance of the drive in movie or explore one another atop the park merry-go-round. It was six months of adrenaline. It was six months of me writing her notes on pizza boxes and her leaving respondent notes on my receipts. Her first response stating:Budd,I am no longer a heartbroken flight attendant. My travels have brought me to a very sweet boy like you. I never want another boy’s Edgar Allen Pizza. –AngelicaAfter six months however, the corner abruptly became empty. Angelica had spoken of her hometown in Wisconsin. Had she wandered back to her previous life, her family, her boyfriend, her job at the coffee shop? I held her stack of receipts with their little notes in my wallet, a paper clip fastened around them. On my down time, I would sift through the notes, smirking at the occasional sarcastic statement or tiny scribble of a smiley face.Dear Budd,I would like to inform you that you carelessly burned the crust today on my pizza. I would say that I am an unsatisfied customer, but my server was painfully handsome this evening. Could you speak with your phantom boss about getting a ball pit or one of those crane games where you catch stuffed animals? I get bored waiting around this place for you to clock out. I hear that new alien movie with tons of gore is playing at the drive in. Let’s go crash this party! I’ve got popcorn in my backpack.-AngelicaWeeks passed, and nothing. No smiling girl at my counter, twisting her hair around her index finger and sway impatiently back and forth. No phone calls on the work line with little fits of giggling that seemed to be perfectly planned. Days slowed back down to their regular vomit flavored pace. My pizzas began to smell, yet again like mundane, every day slave pies. Customers began looking their usual shades of complacent gray. Until, the first day of April struck like a heavy stone upon my heart.The phone rang that evening and I answered to Angelica’s voice. It was unmistakably her but she sounded like a fragile shell of her former self. Her voice lacked her charming confidence, her subtle flirtatious suggestions. She ordered her usual, for the first time however, she ordered delivery and she hung up the phone with an unfamiliar coldness before I could make small talk. I could feel the impatience of worry flutter within me.I delivered the pizza myself, flipping my friend a few dollars to close up for the night. I wanted to see her so badly I was beginning to feel flu like aches in my joints. 134 West Nature Lane, Apartment 16. All of this time, she was only a few minutes from the shop. Why had she never invited me over? We could have watched old western films and shared pizzas. We could have yelled profanities from her apartment balcony at pedestrians. The possibilities were endless. I walked the pizza to her place to taste a sample of the fresh spring air that evening.I reached door #16 on the second floor with the pizza, still steaming inside of its box, to find a carry away menu from Donnie’s Pizzeria folded into the door handle. The exact payment for the pizza was tucked inside of the menu. Hands trembling, before my heart met its match, I read:Budd,I haven’t been an honest girl. I have tricked you into believing that I am someone who I am simply not and never will have the strength to be. Before I go, I have to introduce you to the real Angelica Borras, the one that you could never love. The journal I carry with me is not my sisters. I have no siblings and if you want the pathetic truth, I have no friends, no loving family and I left Wisconsin hoping to escape that reality. It follows me like a heavy shadow of burden. It was me who was depressed, not my make believe sister. I ‘d like to thank you, though, sweet boy, for allowing me to pretend, even if for a few hours a week, that I was a girl that someone would fall madly in love with. I love you. I’m sorry I have to do this. Goodbye, Budd.Love you forever,AngelicaI crumpled the menu into my fist, dropped the pizza box and stumbled down the stairs of her apartment building. My legs were transported me as if I were a controlled marionette. My fear jerked me about by my strings with taunt, harsh tugs. I ran, my lungs expanding and collapsing, feeling as though they would stick to themselves with each heave. My hand extended towards the numb tears that stung at my cheeks, moving towards my ear lobes in the breeze created by my sprinting.My body came to an abrupt stop, my heart had led me to my destination; the train tracks on the corner of Willard and Grove Street. A crowd surrounded the area and in the distance, a freight train was paused stupidly on the tracks, ashamed of what it had done. Sirens struck my eyeballs like sewing needles. Police cars, fire trucks and the smell of something rotten in the air overcame my senses. I sunk, to the pavement and sat with my hands clasped over my mouth. It was the only way to withhold whatever sound was trapped inside of my mouth.There was no family for Angelica, no friends. Only onlookers with startled faces and solemn police officers, contemplating retiring early, surrounded her mangled corpse. Then there was me, alone and sitting motionless. Uniforms bustled about me in dizzying circles, as if they failed to notice my crumpled up body. This was the end.I left town the next year. I couldn’t live with the ghost of Angelica in that town. There wasn’t room enough for my love and her potent memory. I went away to college to study psychology, hoping to understand how someone so beautiful could feel so harmfully disgusting about who they were. Donnie’s pizzeria became a symbol of what had happened. The smell, taste and sight of pizza twists the insides of my stomach into uncontrollable knots. I’ll never bring myself to eat another slice of pizza, let alone press the dough of a crust between my fingers. I envy happy couples at pizzerias, locking nervous feet beneath a table and laughing at one another over a steaming hot pizza. I hope they savor every bite. Pizza always seems to go so quickly and before you know it you’re left with nothing but an empty cardboard box and a stack of greasy receipts. How useless is that?