The following flash fiction was inspired by the people of New York, and the street photography that captures the diversity and excitement of the city. The story, names, and situations are all 100% fictional. Photo and story by Neil Kramer.
When Anthony Vizzi was fifteen years old, at 7:40AM, on the way to his job at the warehouse, he stopped at Caffé Napoli on Hester Street and ordered an espresso. He knew that he was too young to be drinking coffee, and that his mother would object, but since the night before, he had lost his virginity to Angela Finaldi, he felt that he deserved an espresso, if not for the taste, which was as sour as the dark hidden spaces between Angela’s ample thighs, but for the symbolism of the event.
Eighty years to the day, Maurice, the forty-something morning-shift waiter at Caffé Napoli, noticed that Mr. Vizzi was absent from his usual table. Mr. Anthony Vizza had ordered an expresso at 7:40AM from the same table at Caffé Napoli for the last eight decades. Maurice immediately ran to the manager, Mr. Scuza, and told him of his concerns about Anthony’s absence. Mr. Scuza immediately called 911. Something was wrong.
Ten minutes later, police officers from the 13th and 1st precincts arrived at the door of Anthony Vizzi, along with the fire department, senior members of the Italian Fraternity of Hester Street, an ambulance from Saint Francis, representatives of the McNeil Funeral Home, friends from the nearby Jewish and Chinese community boards, and Mr. Scuza, manager of Caffé Napoli. Maurice, the waiter on duty, tagged along, carrying a take-out espresso for Mr. Vizzi, just in case this was all some horrible mistake.
It was as if the entire community was there to pay respect to Anthony Vizzi, the man who learned to appreciate the pleasure of a woman’s touch when he lost his virginity to Angela Finaldi eighty years ago. But Anthony Vizzi opened the door to his apartment. He was wearing a snazzy seersucker suit and looked not dead, but quite healthy and fit for a man of his age.
“Thank God you’re alive!” said Mr. Scuza, the café manager. “I was so worried.”
It was a false alarm, and off went the police officers from the 13th and 1st precincts, the fire department, senior members of the Italian Fraternity of Hester Street, an ambulance from Saint Francis, representatives of the McNeil Funeral Home, friends from the nearby Jewish and Chinese community boards, and Mr. Scuza, manager of Caffé Napoli, back to their usual day.
The only one who remained at the door was Maurice, the waiter on duty. He was taking this experience the hardest of them all. Ever since his time in Catholic school, he believed in the sacred order of things, and for eighty years, Anthony Vizzi stopped by for his espresso.
Except for today.
“I don’t understand,” Maurice said to Mr. Vizzi. “You are in fine health. Why didn’t you come today for your usual espresso?”
“I wasn’t in the mood. I decided to walk up to Mrs. Wang’s place in Chinatown and try some of that Chinese health tea she’s always talking about.”
“But you’ve been having an espresso for eighty years! Eighty years!” Maurice repeated. “No disrespect to you, Mr. Vizzi, but it seems “irresponsible” for you to stop and go in another direction so late in life.”
Mr. Vizzi never finished high school, but he was a keen observer of human nature. You couldn’t survive in the warehouse all those years without learning a thing or two about people. And he instinctively knew that that Maurice’s anxiety was about his own personal fears over the fragility of life than anything to do with Anthony Vizzi’s eighty years of espresso-drinking.
“You’re never too old to change,” Anthony Vizzi told the forty-something Maurice. “I know you hear people say that and you think it’s all bullshit. But it’s not. Look at me. Now you have proof that it isn’t bullshit. You’re never too old to change.”
Maurice nodded slowly. He had just received a great gift. He took a sip from Mr. Vizzi’s take-out espresso and planned his future away from the Caffe Napoli.