Another Valentine’s Day
February 14, 2012 in Valentine's Day Love Contest
It’s just a stupid Hallmark holiday, she told herself. But she couldn’t make herself believe it. Too many stores filled with too many displays of silly stuffed animals, insincere greeting cards, and heart-shaped boxes of overpriced, second-rate chocolates had worn down Wanda’s resolve. She knew that if a suitor had come calling, any of these items would have been enthusiastically received.
“It just would have been nice, that’s all,” she told herself in the mirror, applying the final touches to her makeup. The office had been a nightmare today, as if all the boyfriends and husbands of her co-workers had conspired to keep the Valentine’s Day machine in business. Three different floral arrangements had been delivered to the office, as well as one bunch of balloons. Connie was beaming as she showed off a new diamond heart pendant from her boyfriend, and Crystal had positioned her new white teddy bear (holding a giant heart, of course) next to her monitor. Even Tracy, who had been married for more than 25 years, had been treated to candy and the promise of a romantic home-cooked dinner that evening. At least there had been no proposals – Wanda was not sure she could have handled it.
After a solitary meal of Chinese takeout on her couch, Wanda decided to forgo the sappy movies and ice cream – the stereotypical evening of a single woman perilously close to 30 who was alone on Valentine’s Day – and get out of the house. She was reasonably sure Prince Charming wasn’t going to be in Harry’s, but she was determined to not let the holiday completely win. She wore her favorite sweater, a red turtleneck that was tight in all the right places. Let them see why I spend all those hours in the gym, she thought.
To Matt, Valentine’s Day could be wrapped up in two words: forced romance. There is nothing spontaneous or romantic about an arbitrary day on the calendar where men are expected to write sonnets – or at least buy a card with a sonnet already included. He wasn’t opposed to romance, just opposed to the idea that it wasn’t his idea.
Rarely could a man gain ground on February 14th, but he could very easily lose ground in a relationship. The wrong chocolates, not enough flowers, no jewelry – Amy got earrings, why didn’t you give me earrings? Generally, the best results merely maintained the status quo, while the slightest misstep invited an emotional cold front that could last for weeks. Matt was almost happy this year that he didn’t have to navigate through the quicksand. Almost.
As he finished his second beer at Harry’s, Matt noticed the local hangout held a few groups of young professionals like him, sharing drinks and finger foods and probably lying like crazy about why they didn’t have dates tonight. He’d been invited to a similar outing by some of his work friends, but tonight he preferred to sit alone and think about how his last three or four relationships had failed. The cracks began to show with at least two of them around this time of year, but he wasn’t in the mood to figure out if that reflected poorly on him or them.
Briefly, Matt considered sharing his theories regarding Valentine’s Day with the bartender, but decided that conversation on this day would be perceived as bitter and pathetic. And it would be, Matt agreed to himself silently. It was still early, but better to leave now and be able to return at a later date without being branded as “Mr. Valentine” or something worse by the guy behind the bar. Besides, tomorrow was going to be a long day helping that nonprofit corporation, and he had that workout session with the trainer in the morning. He left a $20 on the bar, put on his leather jacket, and took his leave.
On his way out, Matt opened the door and held it for a shapely brunette. She was a welcome sight, tightly wrapped in a red sweater that complimented her figure and black jeans that added to the presentation. Some guy at Harry’s was really going to enjoy Valentine’s Day . . . well, if he had purchased the correct tokens of affection and in the right quantities. For just a moment, his eyes met hers, and he couldn’t help but smile. She returned the smile.
“Thank you,” Wanda said, walking through the door. “My pleasure,” he answered. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” He was wearing a bomber jacket over a oxford shirt and loosened tie. A kind smile, she thought. It’s a little early to be getting home, he must be meeting someone special.
Matt held the door open a bit longer than was necessary, enough to admire her walk. She wasn’t looking around for friends or a date, and she didn’t have a cell phone at the ready; no, she made a direct path toward an unoccupied area of the bar. She sat in the seat he had just vacated and called for the bartender.
In or out? Destiny? With a slight shake of his head, he closed the door. No, that only happens in the movies, he thought with a small, sad smile. He adjusted his eyeglasses, stuffed his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, and strolled toward the subway.
Wanda noticed the seat at the bar wasn’t cold. Someone had just been sitting here. Perhaps it had been the nice looking man who had smiled so warmly at the door. Destiny? She turned toward the door, but it was closed. No doubt he was halfway down the block or stuffed in a taxi by now. She stifled a laugh. No, that only happens in the movies, she thought, and turned toward the bartender to order a drink.