Chapter 36: Pizza Delivery at the Border of Crazy, Part II
“Buongiorno alla donna piu bella che ha realizato tutti I miei sogni. Ti amero’ per sempre.”
One morning I woke up to this lovely text from Mr. Pizza. I ask him to translate, and he replies, “Good Morning to the most beautiful woman who has made all my dreams come true. I will always love you.”
Of course, the romantic in me is touched, yet the cynic in me receives the message with caution.
All in all, I remind myself that as we enter the fifth month of our coupling, Mr. Pizza has been a man of his word. All in all, I continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with this man who continually shows up, is present, and loves me like no other before him. It’s going so well but I can’t help but think it’s too good to be true.
These nagging questions rack my brain: Is he the real deal? Can I finally stop searching? Will he break up with me cause my brand of crazy is TOO crazy for him?
As I think back on our origin story, I begin to examine the intricate details of our courtship. So, in the spirit of continuity, I’ll pick up where I left off from Part I of my freaky pirate love story with Mr. Pizza (If you haven’t read Part I click here)
Our love story begins the summer of 2019, on the day a monsoon hit NJ during my friend’s annual Pirate Party.
YES! We met at a Pirate Party (Morticia and Gomez Addams would be proud). I mean, I really can’t make this shit up! It’s a costume party that my family friends throw each year with lots of people from the movie and TV business.
I was aptly dressed in a sexy’ish off-the-shoulder pirate shirt and vest with matching headband, ripped jean shorts and wedge sandals. He dressed in a pirate t-shirt, pirate hat with accompanying red and white striped scarf.
As I exited the back door into the yard, I carefully navigated the stairs (the steps were a little treacherous, and the wedges were 5” high). As I headed to the bar for a Pickle Back shot, my eyes were down on the floor to ensure I didn’t wobble on any of the broken concrete.
I felt someone staring at me…looking hard. Once I landed on flat, solid ground, I looked up into the eyes of Mr. Pizza. I had never met this man (I came to find out later that night that he became friends with my Uncle when they met at the Westfield Italian Club about six months prior to the party), so I stared back at him and said, “Hi.”
As he will tell you, all he could muster was “Hi” in return. For the rest of the night, I would find Mr. Pizza wherever I went. The front yard, backyard, in the house, behind me during conversations with other people. He would just be there, present.
As we shared a few laughs and some casual conversation, it wasn’t until my Uncle and I had an argument that I saw him; that I really noticed Mr. Pizza.
First off, he wasn’t my “type.” Ten years older, Italian (as many of my friends can attest, I don’t typically date Italian men) and MARRIED! Alarms going off all around him…just stay away, this is a trap! I cannot lean into another unavailable man.
Of course, fate had other plans.
My Uncle had just started dating a woman (for the sake of anonymity) named Mishy. The Pirate Party was the second time we were going to hang out with her. I was looking forward to getting to know her because I liked this woman. Unlike the last GF that I wrote about in my July 2018 blog.
However, as the alcohol flowed freely and abundantly at this wild and crazy Pirate Party filled with over 50 people, I felt that my Uncle wasn’t being attentive to Mishy.
Yes, what you are feeling is right; it’s none of my Goddam business. But I wanted to ensure this blossoming relationship survived. My Uncle was happy, his kids were comfortable, and I was thrilled to have met this beautiful human; with the hope of developing my own friendship with her.
At one point, five hours into the party buzzed out of my mind; I saw Mishy standing with some other women. She looked upset (or at least that’s how I read her emotional state). I went over to her and asked how she was doing. She said she was ok and having a good time. I then asked about Uncle Jeff’s whereabouts. She responded with slight annoyance (again, this was my interpretation), “I have no idea where he is…”
Panic sets in…he’s going to fuck this up!
I excuse myself and go on a drunken hunt for Uncle Jeff and find him at the front of the house in the middle of a conversation with about ten guys. They were laughing and busting each other’s chops.
For whatever reason, which I still can’t reconcile, I grab him by the t-shirt. With superhuman strength, I lift him off the ground and pull him toward the backyard. While I dragged him down the alley, I scolded him about not paying attention to Mishy.
He yells back at me, “what the fuck are you doing?” I angrily reply, “You’re going to fuck this up. You left her alone all night with perfect strangers!”
As we clumsily arrive in front of Mishy and I let go of his t-shirt, I look at him and notice that he’s steaming with anger. He looks at Mishy and musters up the strength to stay calm and says, “Hey, what’s up?”
Awkward moment. Weird silence follows as Mishy looks at him and then at me. She’s at a loss for words. She sheepishly says, “Hey, what’s going on?”
Instantaneously, I have a sober moment of clarity and realize that I just got in the middle of their relationship. Panic started to bubble to the surface. What did I do?
As I try to reconcile what transpired, I recognize that I was very wrong to interfere. The embarrassment sets in. My well-intended intervention was inappropriate and unwelcomed by Uncle Jeff and Mishy.
In one swift moment, I run to the bathroom to cry out my shame. In my head, the moment plays back in slow-motion, and all I could think was “stupid, stupid, STUPID!” WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?
I am beside myself trying to figure out how to face my Uncle, Mishy and all those people, most of whom I just met, that just witnessed this insane act.
It’s at this moment, I hear a gentle knock at the door, followed by a question, “Are you ok?”
I whimper back, “yes, I’ll be right out.”
I wash my face with cold water, blow my nose and slap my cheeks to gather the courage to walk out of the bathroom (there is only one bathroom for guests to use, so I feel extra pressure to get it together quickly).
As I walk out of the bathroom, I (thankfully) don’t see anyone. As I head toward the kitchen an emotional wave takes me down deep into my self-imposed humiliation. With no witnesses around, I let it go and hold onto the sink as tears flow fresh.
Suddenly, I feel a hand on my shoulder. And it’s the big mitt of Mr. Pizza. I turn around and, for whatever reason, just collapse into his big-armed hug. I let it go — all of it.
He just stayed silent and held me tighter — this perfect stranger showing me the ultimate kindness. After the racking emotion begins to subside, he says, “it’s OK, Cherry. Talk to me. What’s wrong?”
I tell him what happened from my point of view and he’s like “yeah, I saw what happened. Not the best move, but it’s going to be OK. Your Uncle is more confused than upset. Let’s go fix this; let me help you talk it out with him.”
And so, with the backing of Mr. Pizza, I slowly make my way to the front of the house. I begin my apology to Uncle Jeff by attempting to explain my actions and tell him I was totally wrong to interject in his relationship. But my crazy actions were led by the concern that he was hurting Mishy, and I didn’t want him to ruin his chances with her.
My tear-filled apology was received well. We both agree that Mazzola’s can’t drink whiskey as it always results in this type of crazy ruckus. He appreciated me looking out for Mishy but asked that I handle it differently in future. Both Mr. Pizza and I laugh at his smart-ass request.
As things calm down and Uncle Jeff goes to hang with Mishy, I continue speaking with Mr. Pizza. I couldn’t figure out what it was about him that made me trust him enough to unleash like that. The comfort and safety I felt in the arms of a perfect strange was unusual; very unexpected.
It took my breath away.
As our conversation continues, he surfaces some of the marital problems he and his wife are experiencing. This type of information usually gets my guard up (as red flags continue to pop up all around him), but for some reason I feel that he’s different.
He then asks about my current marital status, so I reveal that I’ve been divorced for six years. I tell him, “At 40 years old, I experienced a midlife crisis that turned into my midlife awakening. I was in a very unhappy marriage for ten years and it reached the point of no return.” He then confesses that his 30-year marriage has been in a sad place for the past ten years. He’s unhappy and wants to understand what it’s like to be divorced. He asks that I help him understand the process, options for lawyers, sharing the news and the emotional toll. My first suggestion is that he secure two critical experts to assist with the different aspects of the divorce process, a lawyer and a therapist.
At the end of the night (it might have been the morning at this point) we exchange numbers, which sets off a 60-day text friendship.
During that time, Mr. Pizza and I have a few friendly exchanges. At one point, he asks me out to dinner “as a friend.” My sassy response was, “Absolutely not. I don’t go on dates with married men.” He snarkily responds, “I wasn’t asking you on a date. I was asking a friend for dinner.”
To which I said, “Sorry, Mr. Pizza, we just met, and I don’t believe that you are just asking me as a friend.” He let it go.
Throughout our burgeoning text friendship, he tells me more of his marital story, and I share mine. We have so much in common. Our relationship issues were almost identical. We joked at one point that our partners (or ex-partners) should get together and go bowling.
We talked a lot about our families, and I told him how much he reminded me of my Poppa Mazzola. I told him that we used to call Poppa, by the nickname Pizza because he had a round face and EVERYBODY loves Pizza, and EVERYONE loved Poppa.
It was at this point I decided to call him Mr. Pizza because he had the same energy as one of the best men I have ever known in my life.
I shared that Poppa was madly in love with Nauna; would do anything for her. She was jewelry obsessed and my Pop submitted to all her glittery dreams and desires (I tell Pizza that I happily inherited this obsession from her! Pin that for future reference).
One vivid memory was the time I caught Poppa nibbling on Nauna’s legs, in their basement bedroom, as she giggled like a schoolgirl. They were in their 60’s at the time, and I thought to myself, “wow, I want that. I want that kind of love.” This moment is tattooed on my mind and set the standard for real love. The kind of love I coveted since I was a little girl (especially as a girl with serious Daddy issues).
In turn, he told me about his beloved Uncle Cosimo, who passed a few years back. The man who, along with his Grandfather, taught him how to love and how to be kind. We joked that maybe Poppa and his Uncle Cosimo were playing pinochle in heaven and decided they should connect us.
I advise him on a few things related to his marital situation. Once again, he invites me to dinner to which I promptly decline. I said, “Listen, I am uncomfortable going out with a married man, even if you feel your marriage is over. I don’t want to receive a hateful phone call from a jilted wife. Plus, I am not a side-dish; I’m a five-course meal.”
To which Mr. Pizza heartily laughs and says, “you are absolutely a five-course meal. But you should know that I’m getting ready to separate from my wife.”
I said, “OK, I’ll consider going to dinner with you, BUT first, I want you to do three things to make sure that your marriage is over. I cannot be part of the reason you leave your wife. I can’t bear the guilt.”
I gave him the following tasks to follow over the next few weeks:
- Wake up every day and ask her, “what can I do to make your day better?”
- Invite her to go on an adventure with you. Do something together that neither of you has done before.
- Take her on four romantic dates. You make all the plans. Surprise her.
In mid-August, my doorbell rings, so MSP and I go to the door to see who is there. As I open the door, I’m surprised that staring back at me are the kind, hazel-green eyes of Mr. Pizza. I was a little taken aback, not just because of his presence but because of what he held in his hand.
A dozen long stem red roses and a card. MSP turns to me and says, “oh, are these for me?? Thank you, Mommy, these are beautiful!” I laughed at her brazen sassiness and reintroduced her to Mr. Pizza. “Do you remember him from the Pirate Party and Uncle Jeff’s house?” she sassily responds, “Yeah, kind of…”
Mr. Pizza says, “I just stopped by to give you this gift and to say hi. Mostly to thank you for being my friend and all the advice you’ve shared.” I thanked him for the kind gesture but didn’t invite him in.
When I got inside, I opened the card, and it included a handwritten letter that expressed his growing feelings. What stuck out was that he called me his angel. He said that I was responsible for opening his eyes to the joy he was missing for a long time. He expressed his sincere hope that one day, when the time was right, we could spend more quality time together.
While I was away in Montreal in late August, Mr. Pizza shared over text that he had executed my tasks, and he was totally certain that his marriage was over. It didn’t work. His feelings hadn’t changed.
I was sad for him. I am all too familiar with the devastating moment you realize that your marriage is over; that the investment you made and the life you built with your partner is a façade. He was ready to move forward and move on. I told him that while I am sad for this ending, I am happy that he’s ready to begin again.
Once we learn to appreciate how precious life is, we can no longer allow ourselves to live in misery. He vehemently agreed, as he first came to that realization when he woke up from his heart surgery in November 2018. This was his first cataclysmic midlife awakening; meeting me was the next.
He was ready to proceed. He was ready to be happy.
In early September, Mr. Pizza texted me that he was in the city for work and wanted to see if I was free for dinner. It was unusual for me not to have plans, so I took that as a sign, and finally accepted his invitation.
He said, “really? It only took four times!” I respond, “maybe, the fourth time is the charm.”
He picked me up at my office. When I saw him standing outside, a feeling of warmth filled my entire body. With a big toothy smile plastered across my face, I cautiously walk out of my building as he opens the car door for me. NOTED.
We go to a pub near my office and order the burrata and shrimp cocktail. Mr. Pizza remembers the waitress’s name and addresses her by her name each time she comes to our table. NOTED. The conversation flowed beautifully. The laughter and joy we felt being together was palpable.
After he paid the dinner bill (NOTED!), we walk out of the bar, and again he opens the car door. Once we are in the car, he turns to me and says, “even though the bar was packed, they were all invisible to me. All I could see was your face and all I could hear were your words. It was as if we were the only people in that crowded room.”
Overwhelmed, I instinctively lean over and kiss him. He touches my face and kisses me back. Our first kiss. Now, Mr. Pizza was the one taken aback.
Our chemistry was kinetic. I felt that familiar comfort and safety, and yet, it was thrilling.
As we drive home and sing along to every song on the radio (NOTED), I tell him that my feelings were also growing. I caution that divorce is a long and arduous process. My concern about pursuing a relationship with him is that after being in a 30-year marriage, he may decide to “sow his royal oats.” He should consider taking some time to be alone and date some other women.
To which he replies, “But don’t you date to find this…to find what we have?”
I said, “yes, AND, you date to find yourself again. To discover all the parts of you that lay dormant in an unhappy relationship. Think of it this way, you were 25 when you got married; you are now 55. Your entire adult life and identity is intertwined with your marriage and your children. You need time to discover who you are on your own.”
I thought this was sound and thoughtful advice.
He stayed silent and thought about it. He finally responds and says, “yes, I am 55 years old. Thank you for reminding me (he laughs). But I know who I am, and I know what I want. And I want you.”
My heart drops into my belly. My body tingled. I felt the gravity of his words and the depth of his feelings.
Over the next few months, Mr. Pizza courted me in that old school way. A way I had never experienced in my life; the way Poppa must have courted Nauna.
After our fifth date, I asked him a question over text (I still don’t know why I asked this), “Mr. Pizza, what’s your middle name?”
He answered, “It’s Mario.”
He went on to explain, “it’s not a family name, but my Aunt Maria passed away before I was born, and I was named Mario in honor of her life.”
“Shut the fuck up. SHUT THE FUCK UP!” I shout over text.
He says, “Why? What’s the matter?”
It took a minute for me to gather myself and answer his question. As I slowly type out the words, my body was on fire. I couldn’t believe it. How is this possible?
“My Poppa’s name is Mario”
To be continued…
Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 10-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure