Wednesday at Romonto's
So it was just a normal Wednesday when I strolled into Romonto's Chicago Pizza with my pillow. They have this really floury crust that's a culinary delight, but this day they also had something brand new: A girl. No, girls aren't new, not even at Romonto's. But this one was. New to Romonto's. New to me. New to all of creation. Her nametag said CASSIE, but her smile said SUNSHINE and her pale blue eyes sang MOONLIGHT as her glossy black hair evoked a background chorus of the starriest night. Yes, love at first sight is real. I know that now.
"What can I get you to drink, and why do you have a pillow?" she said.
I stroked my pillow. "Comforts of home. I like to watch TV while I eat, and this is my table. Coke, please, with three glasses of ice. And please draw my Coke from the leftmost dispenser on the machine. It has the perfect mix of carbonation and syrup."
Cassie didn't roll her eyes like I was some weirdo for wanting three glasses of ice. She just said, "Okay. You ready to order, or do you need a few minutes?" She got me. I was hopelessly in love now, and placed my order for a large pepperoni with double cheese and double pepp, light on the sauce, cooked so the pie was still bendable, fully cooked but not too crisp.
Fifteenish minutes after I finished the pizza, Cassie returned. "Care for any dessert?" She smiled at me, and yes, it was that kind of smile.
"I'd prefer an evening with you as dessert," I said. Cassie was a shy girl and couldn't think of what to say, so I rescued her by pulling the four-pack of Reese cups from my pocket. "But I brought a backup. Just in case. Would you like one?"
"Uhhh, no, but thanks."
Demure. Considerate. Didn't want to take advantage of our blossoming relationship. What. A. Girl.
"I only eat three things," I said. "Reese cups, Ravioli cold from the can, and of course pizza."
I had some wee bits of pepperoni stuck in my teeth, so I pulled a few floss picks from my cargo vest and went to work. Cassie stared at me, admiring my good hygiene, then had to hustle off to take care of the other table of customers.
I have a talent for interpreting people. Not so much the words they say, because words are nothing more than the construction blocks of lies. I observe—nay, discern—body language, subtle looks, facial twitches, breathing patterns, sweat formation, even follicular erection that most would cheapen with some gauche label like "goosebumps." These are the involuntary elements of behavior that express the raw essence of a human being. Yes, it's a lot to take in. Like I said, it's a talent. You're born with it or you're not. I was, and it was that gift that allowed me to understand what was going on behind the cash register.
Cassie was in an animated conversation with the owner. His nametag may have said ROMONTO, but everything about him screamed POMPOUS MISOGYNIST JERK SUPREME OF THE UNIVERSE. He was shoving a piece of paper at her, demanding she take it. She was shaking her head in what can only be described as a pleading fashion. Pleading that was falling on the deaf ears of a slave-driving monster. What was really important was that every few seconds during the conversation, she turned for a quick look at me.
Because of my aforementioned talent, I understood everything in an instant: Cassie was telling him about us. About our future together. Our children, then grandchildren. Trips to theme parks. The way we would share everything, from meals to floss picks. About real love that comes along once in a billion years. But ROMONSTER didn't care about love. ROMONSTER cared about vulgarities like money and power. Maybe he cared about pizza, too, but in the same way that a mafia assassin's affection for his own family cannot redeem his charred soul from the atrocities he has committed, it wasn't enough. No, ROMONSTER was beyond redemption. Cassie's furtive glances at me were an obvious cry for help, and her deliverance was a noble call to action that I would surely answer.
Standing over ROMONSTER now, my spirit waged a fierce battle. Not being a cruel man—conversely, I am in fact a man of vast and tender mercy—part of my spirit wanted to believe he was telling the truth, that he would let us walk away and live in bliss without interference. But the realist in me couldn't shake the mental image of his cruelty during the conversation with Cassie I had observed. Her pleading. His cold rejection thereof, forcing her to look to me for her salvation. He would never stop coming after us. So I knelt over him, draped my pillow over his fat face, and held it there until the creature stopped twitching. I stood and turned to Cassie, who in her innocence stood by the cash register, wide-eyed and trembling with relief.
Then I noticed the gun she was holding. In slow motion I watched her finger move, saw it force the trigger back and back and back. I had only microseconds of confusion as flame burst from the muzzle. Then I was on the floor beside ROMONSTER. My angel Cassie stood above me, still pointing the gun.
It was hard to speak and came out as more of a gurgle when I said, "I don't understand, my love."
"Why?" she screamed. "Why did you do that to him? Why?"
"To save you from him," I gurgled.
Tears ran down her face. She said, "You freak. I was telling him I didn't want to even take the check to your table, didn't want to be that close to you again! You asshole! I didn't need saving!"
Uh-oh. Looks like I misread things. Again.