Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Take 'N' Bake Pizza, Margaret, Margaritas, And Laying Down The Pepperoni

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Yesterday afternoon, the power went out on our job right about the time I remembered that I was supposed to take my Mum’s husband Richard (well, OK Dick, but writing Dick always makes me blush) in to Grants Pass to get a giant needle shoved in his backside. He is another seventy year old like my Mum, and has a crushed or getting-crushed vertebrae which gives him sciatic shooting pains and makes sitting and watching TV all day uncomfortable, so he was due for a cortisone shot and I drove him.

After I dropped him off I went to brave the Wal-Mart crowd to kill an hour and buy Mum more knitting yarn and me more razors and toothbrushes and shampoo and... you know... Wal-Mart stuff.

I got the goods and Richard got the shot in his backside and I picked him up, and since we were in Grants Pass-- a major metropolis compared to our little Podunk place in the universe-- I suggested we pick up a take-n-bake pizza to bring home because they are always handy to have for those nights nobody wants to brave the kitchen and cook.

All innocent, run-of-the-mill life chores, for the most part, so why am I telling you this?

Fine bones.

Yes, because of fine bones, delicate features, and alacritous hands that were amazing to watch-- mesmerizing even-- laying down the pepperoni. I figured there was something profound here to share, and by golly, I was gonna share it. Something people SHOULD listen to, even if they ignore me the rest of the time. Even if I am simply a grain of salt, a flapping pie hole, a babbling brook all year long, ya’ll are gonna wanna hear this from me, and I am not kidding.

So sit up straight and pay attention! You too Stucco!

There were four people in the Papa Murphy’s in front of me, and they had all ordered several pizzas apiece just as I had walked in, and suddenly the pizza shop was experiencing a little bit of a rush, a back-up, a log jam. And the two guys working the counter, taking orders and making the pizzas were pretty lame. They were both big and goofy-- a bit like me-- and hopelessly slow.

OK. Normal, everyday, “gee, I have to wait” stuff. Yeah, I know. Hang on a second...

From out of the back comes this young lady. Wearing a Papa Murphy’s baseball cap which hid her face at first, her hair tucked up under the cap, very fastidious and clean; thin, fine-boned arms and slender hands hanging out of a not very flattering Papa Murphy’s uniform shirt and an apron wrapped around her hips with a pocket in it that bulged with small things.

She said something to the two guys and they moved down and made room for her and she began making pizzas like a maestro, like an artist, as if by magic. I found myself drawn to the counter, and I did nothing but watch her every move. She could lay pepperoni like a card dealer in Vegas could toss out cards. She was fast beyond normally fast. Flit flit flit the slices went down, and they didn’t just go down willy nilly, either, no way. They were perfectly placed. I couldn’t believe it. She was awesome. Her fine hands flipped out each thin slice like a card, and she laid it down in a perfectly arranged spiral all evenly spaced, nothing touching but no big gaps either, which is a bit anal and serious for a pizza, to be sure, but amazing and perfect and I watched her do it pizza after pizza. And it wasn’t just the pepperonis either. The mushrooms, the olives, the cheese, laid down evenly, with incredible speed, perfectly, neatly, with care and concern for perfection.

You could tell this girl took her job and her every move seriously. She was focused. She was amazingly good. She was awesome.

I did not stop watching her as she made pizza after pizza, leading up to my pizza which she made perfectly. The two goofy guys did well just to get her creations wrapped and handed to their intended customers, and this girl gently reminded the two guys how to do a good job of that simple task.

My eyes followed her hands up her arms and then looked carefully at the rest of her. She had a very pretty face, with fine, delicate features, and a small head in general. Her shoulders were fine and delicate, as was the rest of her. She had fine and delicate breasts, fine and delicate ribs, a fine and delicate backside, with fine and delicate legs...

If you were to describe her physically, you would (after I led you down that path) call her a fine and delicate young woman.

But her concentration and precision would show you something more, if you got past the fine and delicate breasts. You would see a severity and intensity in her, and you would wonder what drove her to be this good.

There was a moment when I wanted to reach across the glass case and give her a big hug, to tell her that it was OK, that it was all OK, that a pepperoni touching another pepperoni was not going to kill anybody, that a cheese pile where one wasn’t supposed to be was not life threatening, that olives a little heavy on one side and out of balance would not shatter the universe... but I am sane and I have been around enough to know that that is not a cool thing to do.

So I didn’t. I just thanked her and the two big goofy boys and left the Papa Murphy’s Take “n’ Bake and headed back to Podunk with my Wal-Mart sundries and our pizza.

Life in the universe, right?

Right. The thing of it is, I used to date this girl. Well, not THIS girl, but the girl in the picture above. The girl in the picture above was Margaret, who hated to have her picture taken. Even this shot was of her turning her head away from the camera. And Margaret was exactly like the girl at the pizza place. Except ten years older (at the time I was dating her.) She was fine and delicate and severe and amazingly amazing when she worked, which was as a caterer and a chef (two jobs, long hours). She had the same alacritous hands, the same build, the same fine-featured face that was pretty to everybody in the universe except for her, who thought she looked like a boy.

She wore little make-up and her hair was always in place or held in place with a tie because she worked with food seven days a week, and her cook outfits were always amazingly clean for the amount of work that she did, and her hands were deftly doing all day long, slicing, chopping, rolling, spritzing, tasting, stirring.

Margaret was almost machine-like, she was so good, and I used to watch her with enormous pride as she worked and worked and worked.

I was the enigmatic and “charmed” big goofy guy that was always putting together unusual and amusing afternoons for crowds of people, and a friend of the woman she catered with when we met. As much and as serious as Margaret worked, I was equally guilty of goofing off . As serious as she took her life, her obligations, her “work”, I was guilty of goofing off.

OK, to be fair to me, I was working hard too, and have always taken my work seriously, at least I always give my all, but at that time I was in a position to do 30 hour weeks, and much of my work was either mindless and easy for me, or winery related and very arty. I had time to play, and time to do fun things. I organized kite making competitions and best driftwood contest. I set up boats for friends to sneak into music festivals on the river, and I organized inner tube river jaunts with floating kegs and barbeques.

All this to say, while Margaret worked seven days a week and had her life orchestrated and organized and together and “perfect”, I had mine spread all over the place like a sloppy drunk blonde chick with nipple stickies, and we met, got involved, and fell in love.

For a year, Margaret got me organized and working a full forty hours a week. I toed the line and was “on the path” and took care of business and did so happily because I was happy and a guy in love with an organized and amazing vagina and we all know what a guy will do for THAT. And I got Margaret to drop a day or two of work each week, occasionally enough, and took her out to watch the moon rise on the beach, to see the whales play in the ocean, taught her how to rappel off of high cliffs and got her into inner tubes and drunk on beer on hot days on the Russian River and all other manners of Yoo hoo hoo I was used to and she had never taken the time for or felt she deserved.

The expression “opposites attract” was never more apropos than between the two of us. But somehow, for a year at least, a good balance had been achieved and we both were happier than we had been before we met, and things were going along good until that dreaded one year low came around and Margaret wanted to assess where we were and where we were going and like a guy I wanted to just say “huh?”

If you have been around for awhile, you would notice I don’t talk about my relationships any, mostly out of respect for another’s privacy, but in this case, many years have passed and I still am not too motivated to give you the whole shebang. It just seems indecent, in a way. So I will tell you a few things and leave it at that.

At night Margaret worried about everything. It affected her sleeping. She slept very little. There was something in her that was never good enough. I never understood it, but it was there. She wasn’t pretty enough for photos. Fast enough at her job. Perfect enough at whatever she did. Her house wasn’t clean enough. I wasn’t “together” enough.

After awhile, these things were too much for me. My happiness was eroding and falling into her way of looking at the world.

My optimism was sinking into her negativity. Her perfection was affecting my good nature, and my good nature was affecting her view of life.

After awhile the oil was separating from the vinegar and after a year and a half, we chilled out for a bit, and I spent less time with her and more time doing things with other people and friends I had been neglecting. Margaret began going to the gym on top of everything else and after six months of being less intense and more like friends she died in her sleep.

She had a headache. She went home from work. She never woke up again. She was 38.

I am 43 now, and I was 36 at the time. It was a shock. She was the fittest little fine and delicate girl I had ever held in my arms. She had endurance that was amazing. She was a superwoman in many ways. She outworked everyone. She did things better than everyone. She was humble to the point of wanting to slap her out of her humility. Her right and wrongs were clear cut and rational. She gave her all to whatever she did, and everything she did, was close to perfect.

A blood vessel in her brain burst, and it killed her.

She was found the next day around noon, because she never missed work and her worker friends called the Sheriffs office, knowing something was wrong if Margaret wasn’t there and no phone call came. They said she died peacefully, with no apparent thrashing around. She looked like she was sleeping. The girl who stayed up nights worrying about being good enough, finally got to rest without worry.

And I am thinking about all of this while I am watching this magnificent girl lay down pepperoni in perfect patterns and spread cheese in perfect uniformity. The beauty that I saw in the perfection of the motion of this pizza girl was tainted by blood that spilled out into a brain.

I saw the majesty in the attention to detail, the art in the movements, but I saw the flipside too.

I am not here to tell anyone how to live their life or what is or is not important.

But I am here to share with you what I think you need to know about me...


Stucco said...

Scott, would you believe that Schmoopie and I met while working together at a Domino's Pizza? Schmoopie had that same pepperoni placement perfection that you described. Not so seriously OCD though, and thankfully for me, wildly low standards in men. Poignantly told tale.

Anonymous said...

I'm crying.

I'll leave it at that.

Cheesy said...

Hugs Scott.. lost my hubby to the same woe and I was the same age.... sad yet lovely story,,, Thank you for sharing that....

Maggie said...

Scott, this was beautiful, sad, thought provoking. All testaments to your talent.

Aisby said...

I don't know what to say...I'm touched. You may not want to share your "stuff" but you have an eloquent way of putting things.

Nancy Dancehall said...

I'm so sorry.


Lizza said...

I love this post. It's so touching and well-written. I'm sorry about Margaret; thanks for sharing some of your memories of her here.

A job that's done well and done passionately is always a pleasure to see.

ammogirl said...

And this is why I read you.

Scott from Oregon said...

Thank you all for the kind and sincere comments. Hugs to you cheesy, and to you Kylie, and anyone else who wants one...

Schmoopie said...

I am one of your "lurkers." I enjoy reading, but do not always comment. I had to comment on this one. You are an extraordinary writer. I am sorry she was lost to this world so early, but it sounds like she did need the rest and the universe agreed.

Angela Marie said...

Wow! It is familiar...

Thankyou for sharing with me.

She was so young.