The Essential Lover

Dear Gary,

It’s almost midnight and I can’t sleep. Thoughts of you are not drifting through my brain so much as they are ramming around, full speed, consuming every thought and moment since our last tragic encounter. This is what you wanted, right? For me to stay up at night and think about my mistakes? Think about how deeply I wronged you? Think about how I should never have asked those terrible things of you?

We had such a short-lived relationship. I know the reasons for our parting of ways were legitimate, but I just hate that we left things on such a nasty note. When you first walked into my restaurant that fateful night six hours ago, I had no idea that you were about to become one of the most meaningful customers of my Hostess career.

When you first tried to come in, I had to ask you to wait outside as the restaurant can only tend to one guest at a time indoors. I know it’s easy to miss the huge chalkboard easel outside the restaurant stating this policy. Sometimes the standing sign next to it also goes unnoticed. And I know the flyer on the door that says the exact same thing tends to blend in to the background. Trust me, Gary, to start our relationship on such rocky, tumultuous ground was hard for me too. It pained me to ask you to hold on for just one moment as I handed our previous guest her check. I didn’t want to be separated from you for one minute more than absolutely necessary.

The 32 seconds you had to wait felt like an eternity, but when you finally entered the restaurant I knew you were the guest I had been waiting for. My coworkers and I had a smooth shift until that point, and I tend to get nervous and self-sabotage relationships if they’re going too well. I guess that’s what I did with you. After you paid for your pizza and after I endured your borderline harassment over how silly you think our new rules are, I was so happy to see you hadn’t included a tip on your order. That’s when I knew I could trust your character. In the midst of a global pandemic, there are some people who think restaurants are essential and as a result, feel inclined to support the employees via gratuity on their bill. Thank you for not buying into that mindset.

It wasn’t until the end of your transaction that things took a turn for the worse. Because you arrived twenty minutes before the promised time for your order, and because there was a queue forming outside the restaurant, I gently asked you to wait outside until we could ensure your pizza was ready and bring it to you. In hindsight, I see the error of my ways, Gary. It was selfish of me to fairly enforce the rules designed to protect our health and safety, and you helped me see what an awful request this was.

“You’re asking ME to wait outside?” you said. I’ll never forget that terrible phrase. I tried to make it up to you by offering to bring your order directly to your car. “Are you SERIOUS?” I will relive the rest of your meltdown in my nightmares in the weeks, if not years, to come. I don’t know that I’ll ever find someone who can stomp their socks-and-sandals feet in the middle of a restaurant quite the way you can; it was like you were stomping on my heart. The rest of your tantrum is too painful to remember, but ultimately, you demanded a refund. Refunds are always painful, but issuing a refund to someone you really care about is downright heartbreaking. The only thing worse was hearing your last words to me, Gary. You’d waited “SO LONG” for this pizza, you yelled on your way out. And because of me, you “can’t have it.” This haunting sentiment echoes in my soul. I could swear I saw a little trail of fire follow you out of the restaurant when you left. At least I have the receipt that you threw at me from across the counter to remind me of all the good times we shared.

I should have agreed sooner that you were above the rules, and maybe then I wouldn’t have caused such a mess. I took you and all the lessons you taught me for granted while we were together, Gary, and I shouldn’t have.

It’s still the middle of the night, Gary, and I still can’t sleep. I have no choice but to turn to the bottle to comfort me, or a White Claw at the very least… but when I open the fridge in my nearly pitch-black kitchen, the soft glow casting a soothing light on both the contents and my heart, I see the pizza box and I know that nothing else will bring me joy in this moment.

You see, Gary, it turns out your order was being boxed as you walked into the restaurant. Had we been able to complete your transaction without all the drama I caused, you would have walked out with your food in hand, and I would not be up so late, unable to forgive myself for asking you to wait outside.

Your pizza sat in our warmer all night until we realized at the end of the shift that you were not going to come back for it. I didn’t want to admit that it was really over between us, but something shifted in my heart when I saw that box alone on the rack. Still, I couldn’t bear to throw it out. I took it home with me, Gary. Is it fair that I have this pizza to comfort me, while you have nothing? It’s a shame you don’t get to enjoy it, but wouldn’t it be more of a shame to let it go to waste? I wrestle with this as I heat up a slice in the microwave.

I can’t lie, Gary. I’ll ask my coworkers if they’ve seen you when I go in for my next shift, and I’ll browse Yelp here and there for a glimpse of your review, for your side of the story. In time, these wounds will fade. I’ll find another delightful customer to take your place, and you’ll find another restaurant to grace with your patronage. I hope they know how lucky they are to have you, Gary. Even though it didn’t work out between us, I hope you find everything you’re looking for.

Until then, I’ll be here… eating your pizza. It’s delicious.




Taylor Alexander is really cool, really smart, really beautiful and is an all-around catch. When she’s not basking in the glory of being an essential worker serving pizza to the people of Los Angeles, you can find her at home, minding her own business, and not contributing to the spread of the pandemic. Also, she was recently furloughed by an entertainment agency that must legally remain nameless, so if you know of any other fun jobs, she will happily send you her fun resume!