By Alexander Evans
The night that Theo died, I was eating pizza in the bath. It was one of those ideas that sounded luxurious when I first thought of it, riding home on the subway. People act like anything you do in the bath is luxurious, but when the pizza grease starts dripping, when a single slice of pepperoni floats away towards your toes, when the garlic-oregano-butter-musk starts to rise from the water, there’s nothing luxurious about it.
So I was eating pizza in the bath, trying desperately to make the experience relaxing, and somewhere outside, miles away, across town, Theo was dying. If I’d known, I probably would have ordered a salad. Something light. Pizza sits heavy in your stomach when you get the phone call. But maybe the salad would have too, or maybe it was just the greasy soapy water I’d swallowed by mistake.
I didn’t find out until I was out of the bath and waiting for the tub to drain so I could take a shower (I read in an article that the most sanitary way to take a bath is to shower both before and afterwards; I suspect this is especially true when pizza is involved). I flipped on the radio, hoping to catch the end of a music program. Instead, it was a breaking news broadcast. I was still toweling off my arms when I heard that there had been an accident on the train line. By the time I learned there were people dead, I had moved onto my legs. Thinking back, I don’t even know why I dried off. I was just going to get right back in the water. What was the point?
The news broadcast that night didn’t say Theo’s name, and I didn’t think it would be Theo, tossed out of his seat on the commuter rail, surrounded by breaking glass, screaming businesspeople, and emergency sirens. After all, it could have been anyone. We all ride the train from time to time, and from time to time, the trains go off the rails, flip on their sides, and block major intersections. It could have been the postman, Mr. Janowitz next door, the lady who sold fresh flowers from a stall on the corner of our block, but it wasn’t any of them.
While I was in the shower, I left the pizza box on the toilet seat. People say that the average cutting board has more bacteria on it than a toilet seat, so, I figured, what’s the difference? When I’d exited the shower, dried off again with my still-damp towel, and pulled on a pair of dirty sweatpants (what was the point of the elaborate cleaning ritual, you might ask, and you’d be right to), I lifted the box to take it back to the kitchen, and I found that it had left a greasy ring on the seat. The ring was broken in just one part, where the slice I’d eaten had been. I looked at it for a moment, wondering whether it was significant, whether I, like the ring, was missing an essential piece, unable to fully connect. I balled up some toilet paper and wiped it off. No, I thought. It’s just pizza grease.
Alexander Evans is a writer and teacher who lives and works in the American midwest. He has a sweet and bouncy dog named Otis who is probably barking right now. His small stories have appeared in X-R-A-Y, Pithead Chapel, Milk Candy Review, and more.