I’ve had pizza on my mind a lot lately. Cravings. Running through my mental Rolodex, imagining the sauce from this local joint, the crust from that one. Promising myself a slice or two or three as a treat to myself at the end of the week. I don’t even like pizza all that much. It’s fine, I certainly won’t complain about being offered one, but I’ve never understood the obsession over it. A well-executed pie can be a wonderful thing, but no more so than any other food. Pizza, certainly, is not the stuff dreams are made of.
I’m in a bright room. Clinically bright. Glaucoma exam bright. Everything is steel, brushed steel. There are shelves, and there are many things on the shelves, but what the things are… that is lost. I have the sense that this is a kitchen of sorts, though I’m oddly reminded of the walk-in freezer from The Shining. I can smell food, I can smell heat. I’m by an oven of sorts. It is very open, a series of hot shelves with no doors, and it is inexplicably tall. The top shelf, out of reach and out of sight, has a handled tray on it. I don’t know what I expect to be cooking on the tray, but I am very hungry. I find one of those hooked wooden rulers that you use to pull out hot oven shelves. Somehow I wrestle the tray down with the ruler, on it is a pizza. I don’t know what I wanted, but it wasn’t pizza. On top of that, it’s a pepperoni pizza, and I guess even in my dreams I don’t eat meat. I’m very disappointed. I give away the pizza. I wake up.
What if pizza isn’t a food. I mean, pizza is obviously a food, but what if I’m preoccupied with it because it’s not just a food. What if pizza is a metaphor. Pizza is just about the most American food imaginable. I mean, pizza is obviously Italian, but America has thoroughly coöpted it and made it our own. We have the warring factions of NYC and Chicago. We have put pizza on a bagel so we can eat pizza anytime. We have a chain with such iconic buildings that they’re immediately recognizable even when repurposed. Delivery is the high echelon that frozen aspires to. We have pizzas where the crust is just a circle made of hot dogs. We have dessert pizzas.
I remember the first time I went to Chicago, the first time I ordered a real deep-dish. Being told it would take over an hour to cook, wondering why anyone would want to wait that long for a pizza. When it finally came out, it was a spectacle. Daunting. I only managed to crush one slice of that tomato pie, but what an amazing slice it was. And, much like the broader experience of being in Chicago, it was a new slice of humanity, a new slice of America.
I’m sitting alone at home. I have no furniture, I have no things. I have only an empty room. And now, a phone, with which I order a pizza. It arrives immediately, which is impressive even after taking into account the pizzeria’s proximity. There is no attractive delivery person, this won’t be one of those dreams. There is no delivery person whatsoever, just the pizza. I struggle with the box, it has complicated straps. This pizza is more tightly secured than my apartment, but I do make my way in. It is perfect – the sauce reduced down to little more than a paste, onions caramelized just so, the crust tan and oily. I go to lift a slice, and the whole pie comes up. As I lift it, it melts. It degrades into something thin, crêpe-like, messy, liquid. It is a farce, and its increasingly mercurial nature gives it life. It is monstrous. It is a living lie. It escapes me. I wake up.
I don’t have pizza on my mind, I have my life on my mind. I have the lives of everyone around me on my mind, everyone within earshot, everyone who I walk past every day. I haven’t been dreaming about pizza, I’ve been dreaming about this country. Right now is a good time for anxiety, a thick layer of anxiety sauce atop this spectacle of a pizza that’s seemingly taking forever to either bake or burn up. For anyone who belongs to an oppressed people, anyone who knows or loves such a person, anyone who simply has the decency to care about all sorts of humans either in or out of our own comfort zones – our current political climate should be terrifying.
The misogyny, the racism and xenophobia1 that have floated to the surface and then burst into the open air with a start… These blatant, flagrant displays of intolerance and refusals of humanity. It is the very definition of backward, trying to repeat history. And we’ve positioned ourselves, as a nation, such that one of our presidential candidates is inciting this, offering this as the new way forward. It seems more and more likely that his candidacy will burn up like a pizza left under the broiler for too long, but bad things have been opened up. Some truly nasty people have become vocal, and lent their voices to more nasty people, and so on. It’s no wonder I continue to crave some doughy metaphor for the strong, diverse, creative nation that progress has built. I’m not ready to watch it decay into a puddle that barely resembles this place I know.
- Certainly the Trump campaign is doing no favors for LGBT folks either, but his message has been really, really blatantly misogynistic and racist. ↩︎