Our special Valentine’s Day tale for you. Not so long ago . . .
Valentine’s Day. I find myself suddenly single again after four years off the market. It doesn’t bother me much that I’m alone on Valentine’s Day, but it seems to bother other people, who insist I join them for the evening. I tell them I’m too busy unpacking boxes, having just moved into a new place following the sudden split, but Zahra is damn persistent.
“Girl, I got us on the list for the Match.com party in Hollywood,” she says in her Jamaican accent.
“Ah, the coveted Los Angeles list,” I remark.
“Yeah, as in we don’t have to pay $25 at the door.”
It’s Saturday. I’ve been single exactly three weeks, and she’s insisting I dive headfirst into what’s sure to be the largest and saddest meat marketing event of the year.
“Match.com, that online dating service, is throwing a party in Hollywood on Valentine’s Day? It’ll be full of losers—”
“— And us,” she quips.
So we go. It’s my first foray into L.A.’s treacherous bar scene as a solo artist, and I commemorate the event by wearing high heels, a dangerously low-cut top and a push-bra that thrusts those puppies right below my chin. I feel like a clown, but Zahra says I look good, so it’s OK.
We enter the place, and as expected, find a sausage party in full swing. Sadness Central, we have arrived. Men idly stand around surveying the room while groups of girls huddle together, whispering and pointing.
I suddenly flash back to a junior high-school dance and look down at my feet, just as I did then, but that’s where the similarities end. Today, my feet are covered in sequined high heels, and I’m far less shy, less naïve, less optimistic than before, yet just as uncomfortable as ever.
I begin to survey the scene as well and am stunned by the sea of losers L.A. has to offer me on this lovesick night. On display are ugly guys in suits and red ties, awkward men with no fashion sense or sense of self awareness, and the occasional decent-seeming guy who seems to disappear into the crowd as quickly as he appeared, making me wonder if he were just a mirage.
The room stinks to high hell of desperation and disappointment — a veritable lonely hearts club, of which I am now, too, a member. And I wonder if they can smell it on me as well, if I wear my sorrow like a cheap perfume that permeates the room, repelling people and making their noses wrinkle up in disgust.
Meanwhile, Zahra is getting all kinds of attention from all sorts of strangers, some of them decent. Zahra, Miss Jamaica 2001, contender for the Miss Universe crown, sporting her taut pageant body and flawless pageant face, while I stand unnoticed, Miss Siberia 1979, Soviet export unextraordinnaire, wrapped in heartache and baby fat. Note to self: Never go to a singles mixer with a former beauty queen again!
And I begin to wonder why the hell I came, why I wore this top, as goons stare at my chest, why I don’t leave right now.
I know why. It’s for that small hope buried deep within me that I’d catch the eye of a handsome stranger — hopefully one who looked like him — who would offer up a shy smile, a flash of desire, and make me feel wanted again, make me feel like a woman again after he made me feel so unwanted with his cheating. That’s all I’d need to go home satisfied.
But it won’t happen, not tonight anyway.
“I’m out of here,” I say to Zahra, who grabs my arm when I try to walk away, her eyes imploring me to save her from the goons currently asking her to dinner.
“Let’s at least go to another bar,” I offer.
So we go, and there we stay finishing off our evening and several glasses of wine while exploring the farthest reaches of girl talk before we call it a night and get into our respective cars.
As I rev up the engine for my short drive home, I feel the ghost of Valentines’ past grip me, and I flash to that first Valentine’s Day he and I spent together, just weeks after we met, sitting in my bedroom in San Francisco, eating $5 burritos from the joint down the street, giggling without shame as we fumbled over each other and our new love.
And then the following year, after he moved me into his life and home in Los Angeles, when I came from work to find a surprise candlelight dinner awaiting me. I never knew he could cook, but there on the table were two plates of lemon chicken with new potatoes and the most delicious baby carrots. The trick, he said, was adding a handful of sugar while they boiled. They were so sweet.
And I begin to wonder what he’s up to tonight, whether he has already found someone to pass the time with. Would it be wrong of me to call? Could he be with her, whom he ruined us for, though he says she was nothing? Better she were something, so I could be discarded for something more meaningful than one night with a total stranger. I probably shouldn’t care but I don’t know how to stop.
I think all this and my heart gets heavy again, as it does every time I arrive home and step into my empty apartment.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.