Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone, Only Darkness Every Day

Today, as you may know, is Valentine's Day. Tonight, in some kind of anticelebration, I am going out in Brooklyn with a bunch of friends for a bar crawl. My friend Kevin says it is his goal to pass out cold in the middle of Smith Street by the end of night. I say, it's always good to have a goal.

Since we have 27 inches of snow, I'm going to be wearing hiking boots, and one never meets boys when wearing hiking boots, unless one is hiking. So I don't have any loftier hopes for the night than to catch a buzz at the Zombie Hut or Abilene. But no matter what, it certainly won't be the worst Valentine's Day in recent memory.

That particular trophy goes to Valentine's Day 2000. If you think you're having a shitty Valentine's Day, just listen to this. You'll feel soooooo much better.

I had moved to the New York the previous fall from Arkansas, where I had been working at the newspaper in Little Rock. Just before I moved, I reconnected with someone I knew through a mutual friend in college, someone who went to college about 200 miles from where I did. Let's call him T. When T and I met in college, we immediately clicked but he was pretty seriously involved with some other girl at the time, so that was that. Two or three years later, I was in Little Rock, he was in Memphis, the spark was still there and despite my impending move, we fell into it fast and furious.

He was supposed to be moving to California for a PhD program, but decided to scrap it all and follow me out to New York and instead apply for a graduate program at Cornell (which he got into). Life was good. We were "in love." We spent hours a day on the phone devouring each other's every word, sent enough email to crash a few hundred servers, giddily explored our new city together. The chemistry was still there with a capital C (or so I thought) and after only about four months we were talking about getting married. Parents were met, words of devotion exchanged. The big flashing warning signs I should have seen looked to the fool in love (me) like big neon hearts flashing "He's your soul mate!" and "You finally found 'The One'!" Never had I felt so understood or loved.

Anyway, about five months into our relationship Valentine's Day rolls around. He had friends in town and asked if I wouldn't mind involving them in that evening's plans. Being the cool and gracious person that I am (ahem), I said why not. I could still bask in the glow of his "love" with other people around.

So we traipsed off to some cheeseball revolving restaurant in Times Square and ate lobsters with the Brits. Snowfall descended on New York and at the time it all seemed very romantic.

After dinner, we proceeded back to his apartment near Christopher Street. All of a sudden, he was sullen, sulky, withdrawn. He wanted to "be alone," he said. On Valentine's Day? Apparently. I wheedled and snuggled and begged him to tell me what was wrong, but to no avail; he just sat with his head hung and secrets clanging around inside of his chest.

And so, teary and terrified that I was losing my one true love, I descended the rickety staircase in my flimsy red silk skirt and trudged through the snow back to the subway to go home to Brooklyn. I got to the subway and some guy -- who was appointed by the sadistic jokers of the universe to play "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" as I walked down the ramp at West Fourth St. -- made me burst into full-fledged sobbing with his crappy acoustic rendition.

A few weeks later, thanks to a discovery in a West Village coffee house that forced the issue (which is a whole different story), my boyfriend came out of the closet and broke up with me. He was gay, gay, gay. Now the apartment near Christopher Street made all kinds of sense.

I stayed in bed and cried, not eating and hardly drinking a thing, for four days. Finally, my friend Kevin -- the one who tonight will be passed out on Smith Street -- came over with a bucket of Kennedy Fried Chicken and two bottles of cheap champagne. He was determined to get my blood sugar back up and restore some skin to my bones, which were straining to break through the skin of my cheeks; it's certainly the closest I'll ever come to looking like Kate Moss. I felt like shit, but I looked amazing!

Let's review. Your Vday is not *really* shitty unless: 1) you have to eat at a cheesy revolving restaurant with a bunch of tourists in Times Square 2) your date -- with whom you've discussed lifelong commitment -- turns out to want to play for the other team 3) you have to walk home alone, without having had sex, in the snow, in nylons 4) some homeless dude in the subway sings a dirge that makes you burst into hysterical tears. There. I knew you'd feel better.

You can also read about my gay boyfriend here. The great thing about emotional trauma is that it gives you reams of material to mine, remine and mine again for personal essays when you can't afford therapy.

I've gotten less vitriolic about the "gay boyfriend" situation as the years have passed. He wrote me sometime a couple years ago to say that he really did love me all that time but basically just knew he wouldn't be able to keep from screwing around with men if we got married. It's kind of cold consolation, but I'm in some way comforted by the fact that I wasn't a total fool. I was just 98% a fool. I'm also relieved to have dodged my own personal "Brokeback Mountain" scenario. (I loved that movie, by the way, though I was scared I wouldn't simply because of my own background.)

Anyway, now it just makes me kind of sad that that's the way it turned out. From time to time, I still feel that I was cheated out of the love of my life by some genetic quirk -- or things he told me he suffered as a child that he couldn't control -- and maybe one or both of those things are true.

But, I'm thankful that I have good friends to make merry with tonight, and that if I ever need an emergency bottle of champagne again, Kevin will be there for me. As long as he isn't passed out on Smith Street.


Blogger The Assimilated Negro said...

this is the first time I've seen "Kennedy" fried chicken mentioned in a blog post. for me that is worth celebrating ...


6:11 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home