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The Wife, The Mistress, The Ex: Love Amongst Pizza Wars

Today I took my first dip in the Describli pool. At first I assumed the extent of Describli was a daily email with 5 writing prompts to get your imagination started, as a writer. Today I discovered it’s a flash-writing game, with scores and votes and sharing and crazy creative people throwing words around daily. The limit is 5000 words, and the title is allowed only a few characters. Of course, I started writing without logging in, so my first post is anonymous. The prompt was “The Wife, The Mistress and The Ex.” I didn’t bother to look at rules. I just started writing. The prompt reminded me of the nicknames we’d given to the various pizza shops throughout our relationship, mostly in our very early years together as new live-in lovers in Philadelphia.

Anyway, here it is.

Pine Street


As 2 young 20-somethings, my college boyfriend and I had exactly one summer day to spend in Philadelphia securing an apartment for the quickly approaching fall and the coming year. We walked up and down Pine, Spruce, Lombard, between 24th and 16th. We found a small back apartment on the first floor of a brownstone at Pine and 18th. It had no light. It had, we discovered later, at least one mouse. Back in Pittsburgh we were living – officially – apart. We were making the leap after three years of college dating to living together. His parents protested. Mine shrugged. I’d find a job and he’d attend graduate school at Penn. It was a plan.

All of our belongings from 2 different apartments fit into a small rental truck. Family hand-me-down furniture would fill up the tiny dark rooms we had waiting for us in Philly. When we moved everything in and returned the truck, the first thing we did was look for a pizza joint. We had the best pizza joint back in Pittsburgh, a tiny spot in South Oakland with an immigrant Italian behind the counter and the crispiest crust, smoothest mozz, and fullest-bountied sauce you could imagine. We still echo the owner’s heavily-accented lilt, these two decades later. We were regulars; they knew us. They had our order always waiting. Our love was built in that hot little eatery, one block down from my boyfriend’s one-room hole-in-the-wall roach palace of an apartment.

But life makes you say “Ciao” more often than not, it seems, and we found ourselves standing on a quiet residential city street, wondering where the good pizza was. We chose the closest option, a place within a block of our new hole-in-the-wall mouse palace. It wasn’t like home, but it would do. It was our new home, and it was close.

Inertia and busy schedules and the strain of living with someone who could barely live with themselves kept us going to the corner pizza, always good in a storm, always good in an argument. A break in school finally came and we could wander a bit more around the neighborhood. We tentatively took a few steps into another corner shop, this one to the south and east, past our normal corners. He got pizza and I had a cheesesteak, a staple for me as I grew up in Poconos where we ate them with marinara sauce. This place was smaller, more for takeout than sitting. Cramped and unwelcoming. But the food was so much better than the first stop we’d grown used to.

I’m terrible with names, all sorts of names. Although I will forever remember the name of our Pittsburgh Pizza place, I couldn’t for the life of me remember even the first letter on the doors of the new pizza joints. So the southeast girl became “The Mistress,” as we felt as though we were cheating on our first chick and her staff that came to treat us as regular pests. She was the Wife. The new one, the Mistress. And painfully, and although we never said it aloud, our Pittsburgh pleasure the bittersweet Ex.

The next year we found a 3rd floor walkup 6 doors down on Pine Street, with a skylight and double the floor space. We got married. We got a dinky little kitten from Morris Animal Refuge who grew to a very tall and long 18-pounder and just died last year at age 18. They make the cats quite hardy in Philly. That cat made it through two more moves, one around the corner onto Naudain and one out of the city entirely into the close western ‘burbs, where the poor cat endured then loved 2 little humans who came into our lives. We all miss him terribly. Now we’re learning to live with and love a puppy. Our Ex-pet and the once-unimaginable pup. Each in their own time, each in their own season.

We’ve found a new pizza place, out here, so close but so far away from the city life we once loved. But no pizza or greased 4-walls can compare to that original lover, that little Italian sweat-bomb of a shop where we were first seen as one order, never one half without the other half, tucked away in a booth on the sunny side of a forgotten Pittsburgh street.

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