Episode 23: Escape from New York Pizza
Eight months later…
Anna was four weeks from her delivery date, and she was dressed only in her bathrobe when she emerged from the bathroom, her damp feet making darkening impression on the hallway carpet, until she stopped dead in her wet tracks.
“Who the hell are you?” Anna asked.
She said nothing back.
With horrified eyes, Anna watched as she – the other one – placed the barrel of the gun over her pregnant belly, the gun pointing down through the top of the belly to the floor, where the bullet would crash through, without a doubt sending the nearly-due child into some sort of gory oblivion.
Anna tried to jump back, too late.
The trigger was pulled.
The world was a deafening ring and an overbearing feeling of vertigo/nausea and crimson splashing on her bare feet and the carpeted hallway.
Far, far too late.
EIGHT MONTHS EARLIER…
Seriously, that was the name of the place: Escape from New York Pizza.
It was a pizzeria.
It was September of ’96 (NOW) and I can’t even remember what the hell I’d been shipped out to San Francisco for, though it was probably some kind of important. I do remember Brain setting the whole thing up, which likely meant it was another hit. A hit I’d already done? I hit I was supposed to do? I couldn’t even remember that. The only reason I knew I was supposed to be at Escape from New York Pizza at…
Check my watch, 3:15pm. Right on time
…Was because I’d put it in my electronic watch-calendar which had set off an annoying alarm-reminder at 12:15 this afternoon, rousing me from an otherwise perfectly good sleep-in.
The hotel wasn’t much, but it was expensive, right downtown, it had apparently been featured in a few movies from the 70’s and 80’s, though I’d be damned to recollect which ones.
My mind wasn’t for shit these days, and I have night terror about barfing up these dark purple squid-slugs, and when I wake up it’s with a bizarre sense of displacement. Last night I had a dream about offing some embezzling skydiving instructor by locking his wrists behind his back and pushing during a skydive from his own plane. I figures he wouldn’t be able to get to his rip-cord. I’d been right.
Since I’m sleeping downtown, I have to take a cab over to the Haight district. I heard there was an Escape from New York Pizza right downtown somewhere, but I couldn’t find it so I can’t really blame anyone (Brain?) for sending me out to this one.
I go into Escape from New York Pizza and take a seat at one of the tiny vinyl booths near the window facing Haight street where I can see the edge of Amoeba, a record store that I’d much rather be in than sitting here. I wonder if the store carries cassette tapes, what with everything switching over to CDs and the Tower Records in Santa Monica only carries the compact discs now – when a yellow-uniformed waitress with a name-tag that says ANNA on it approaches my booth. Funny, I think, that’s my wife’s name, but this little number sure isn’t my Anna.
I suddenly remember being in an HMV somewhere between Times Square and Central Park in Manhattan, and not seeing a single cassette tape on any of the floors, when-
“I’ll just have a coffee for now,” I tell ‘Anna’, and she gives me this look like I just told her I’d like to eat her cat, and then sits down right across from me.
“I’m not a waitress,” she says to me, and then I notice the dried blood splattered over the ‘Anna’ name-tag. “Well, not any more,” she elaborates.
“That’s cool,” I tell her, my gaze drifting towards the record store across the street again.
“You gotta go to Berlin,” she tells me.
Suddenly, some Greek cook who reminds me of Vic Tayback, the actor from that 70’s television show Alice, yells out from behind the counter, “Come on up to the front if you want to order!”
I don’t make any discernible move towards the counter, so he also elaborates: “There’s no table service here!”
And then before I can even make a gesture like I’m going to pretend to move my ass up to the counter to order something greasy, he disappears back into what I can only presume is the pizzeria’s kitchen. Saving me the trouble of having to make like I’m actually going to get up out of the cramped booth.
“Berlin?” I question the yellow-dressed young woman across from me. I notice she’s drinking some sort of cola from a plastic cup and a straw, but have no recollection of her (or anyone else) bringing it to the table. Of course, there’s no table service, so she must’ve brought it over herself, I deduce. I certainly don’t remember getting up and ordering it for her.
“Yeah,” she says, using a tone that would indicate this conversation is far too much trouble for her.
“The details are in your hotel room,” she tells me.
“Already?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she confirms.
“How’s that?” I say, leaning a little towards her, my arms on the table. It’s at this point I notice a half-eaten pizza on a severely dented silver pizza-plate in the middle of the table between us, and I have no choice but to wonder which one of us brought that to the table. I feel something heavy – like greasy bread – in my stomach and can taste bad garlic in my mouth, which leads me to believe two things: First, I at at least some of the half-devoured pizza; and second, I’m definitely loosing my mind. Or at least parts of it, if not the whole thing. My life is becoming a badly-edited movie, with many of the linear chunks of my life left on the cutting room floor. I check to see if there’s any ham or pepperoni on the pizza, and am somewhat relieved to find that there’s not, because I seem to think I’m a vegetarian, though I can’t exactly say why I think such a thing. Gut feeling, I guess.
The image of barfing a slug out suddenly flashes through my mind, and I close my eyes, like that’s going to help. At least it only lasts a fraction of a second, then I’m left with the feeling of the greasy pizza in my gut, and not much more. My mind keeps going on without me, and I decided to not visit the record store after this meeting after all, maybe I should just head straight back to the hotel room.
Looking at the half-finished pizza (more like two-thirds, actually), I also realize that the last question I can remember asking (“how’s that?’) has probably been answered nearly half an hour ago, and I find I’m feeling awkward and a little too embarrassed to put the question out to the waitress (who isn’t really a waitress) again. Besides, once I get back to the hotel room, if all the details I need are in fact there, I’ll probably be able to piece everything else together.
At any rate, it’s too late now, because not only is the pizza (and the tray) gone, so is the blood-spattered waitress in the yellow uniform.
I look through the window and across the street, craning my neck, to look at the front of the record store. It doesn’t look like it’s open, anyway.
“Hey,” the Greek cook says to me, shocking me out of my daydream, and standing right next to me at the table. “We’re closing now! You want something else to-go? Last chance.”
“No,” I tell him, and get the fuck out of there, but later wish I had ordered some garlic bread to take with me.
Instead of hailing a cab, I walk all the way back downtown, deep in a string of thoughts I can’t keep track of and at a complete loss for time. All I know, is when I get back to the room, it’s dark outside.
Summer’s coming to an end.
A look at the bed.
I have to go to Berlin. That’s alright, I’m sure all the details will be there.
I wonder if I’ll make Oktoberfest?