Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Best Worst Valentine

Years ago now (thank god!) I was dating a man who was the best worst boyfriend I ever had. He was handsome, smart, talented, and MEAN. One Valentine's day, he completely failed to give me any kind of special love: no card, no gift, no thoughtful meal, no nothing. As I sat with him at the kitchen table after giving him a card with lightning bolts raining down on a Southwestern landscape (I thought it was a symbol of our electrical chemistry; it might as well have been the harbinger of our going up in smoke), he droned on about what a lame holiday it was, how it was a holiday crafted by Hallmark, that whole nine-yard cliché.

I mean who the hell cares if it's a holiday created by a card company? It's still an opportunity to let your loved one know you love him or her. You don't have to buy a hallmark card to do so. And furthermore, I don't even think the Hallmark part rings true; it's just an excuse for lovers who don't really love. It's an excuse for haters.

So I'm sitting in our kitchen, crying because I've tried to make the day somewhat special -- the card, the special meal -- and he hasn't even bothered to say "Happy Valentine's Day" and give me a kiss, and I think to myself, "this is the last straw. This guy is SHIT;" still, it takes another five months for me to extricate myself from his cheating heart. And I'm crying hard because I feel his cold heart growing colder. So I drive, snot streaming down my face, to Fiesta -- the supermarket around the corner. I'm getting a bottle of wine in which to drown my sorrow. In the checkout line, I can't even look at the checker because my eyes are buried underneath my swollen eye sockets. I can only stare down at the check-writing platform and wait for my transaction to be over. Tears fall from my face to the platform, despite my best efforts to keep them in.

Suddenly, a red rose appears in my peripheral vision. I suck my snot back into my nose and look up to see the store manager extending a long stem red rose toward me. "Happy Valentine's Day," he says. He hands me the rose. "For you."

I break into a sob so pitiful three checkout lanes stop their transactions to stare at me.

I tried to thank the manager, but my heart broke so loudly I couldn't muster any words. I left the store, hyperventilating, holding the rose, completely wrecked by the fact that I'd received more kindness from a stranger than I did from my own so-called boyfriend.

Best Worst Valentine's Day EVER.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

It was a terrible time. Far from a MEAN and cheating heart on the holiday of hearts, my heart was torn and conflicted and utterly tormented. I’m sure I just wanted Valentine’s Day to go the hell away. A few weeks earlier I had re-contacted by phone a woman whom I had never gotten over leaving. The feelings that resulted from that contact were overwhelming, and in the ensuing months I would have tragic difficulty handling them. I DIDN’T “handle” them, and in the end it would kill my relationship with Christa.

It wasn’t as if I wasn’t aware of what I was losing, and my agony was acute. I even tried to get Christa back. Later – too later - I even asked her to marry me. She didn’t say “NO” and she didn’t say “yes.” She said “And you’ll take care of me?” which was what I was always secretly and stupidly afraid such a beautiful talented smart woman really wanted from such a boring dumb ugly but well-end$wed clod like me – care but not true love. I doubted myself, and so I doubted her.

I remember calling my mother - whom I never call for almost anything for reasons I’m not going to go into here - to come over and sobbing that I loved two women and didn’t know what to do and thought I was losing my mind. Christa was the most dynamic woman I ever knew, and the pain I suffered over losing our relationship stays with me to this day. Still, we had a lot to overcome then. We both had quick tempers and strong wills, we both had been unfaithful in the relationship. She remembers a flower emerging into her field of vision and snot at the grocery store. It’s painful, sad, and funny in her usual compelling telling. I remember snot running down my nose one February, alone in the dark cold misty night of an empty New York City street as I called Christa over and over and FUCKING OVER and she…didn’t – wouldn’t - answer her phone. Worst worst night I’ve ever had. Well, one of them at least, it’s certainly up there. I suppose this blog’s now about memory, so I also remember…other…better…things.

Christa’s therapist convinced her that I “couldn’t handle her.” In truth, I couldn’t handle myself at the time. Had I been able to, life would have been different for both of us. As it is, we’ve both done fine. We have three beautiful children between us and another on the way any day now, and we have our marriages. Mine is to the woman for whom I left Christa. For our seventh anniversary a few days ago, I bought her a new iMac – the slick white kinds where all the guts are in the monitor, man they’re slick – but I gave it to her two weeks early and didn’t give anything on our actual anniversary. On Valentine’s Day, I didn’t give her a card – a Valentine - but I did give her a new stationary exercise bike. It’s not the elliptical trainer she wanted (elliptically, those things are too damn big for our house and I’m worried I’ll arrive one day to find a pureed child) but it will have to do. Still, she’s the kind of woman where if I said Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday (which Christa’s right – it really isn’t) and I’m not giving anything – not even a card, not even a kiss – she’d be upset, but she’d keep her snot to herself and probably wouldn’t hit the bottle. She knows I’m prone to…moods.

In relationships, we take the bad with the good. I gave Christa plenty of bad, it’s true. But not because I was mean. Because I was incomplete. And I still am. As is each of us.

By the way. I remember giving Christa a beautiful 30th birthday party. Expensively catered. Loving. Mary Jane (see below) was even in from California. But Christa can tell you about that one if she wants.

And I think I still have the lightning bolt card. In a box. Somewhere.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2007, Christa.
With LOVE -