Wednesday, July 28, 2010

plant one on me...

I love giving gifts.  For anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, Valentine's day or no reason at all.  Usually boyfriends give their girlfriends gifts for all the afore mentioned holidays and vice-versa.  It's just something nice you do.  

(That doesn't mean it has to cost a lot of money.  Although that's certainly allowed.)

I've given and received some pretty stellar gifts over the years, and for the most part, I don't have any real complaints.

Except...

(You all remember the Ex, yes?  If not, no big deal, this story will remind you.)

So, a few weeks ago over dinner with friends, someone brought up the subject of the worst gift you've ever received from a boyfriend.  Each gal took turns telling her story, but I'm quite certain I won by a landslide.  

Let me tell you why.

During my sophomore year of college, my boyfriend and I were in our 2nd year of dating bliss together.  Or something like that.  We had shared two years of birthdays, two Christmases, two Valentine's Days, and I never missed one occasion.  He missed all but one.

In fairness, maybe on my birthday he would show up with a card and then say, "All right! Let's go find you a gift!" But that doesn't count, kids. 

Everyone knows this.

So...it's February of 2001.   I'm living in the same dorm as the Ex. He's on the 4th floor, I'm on the 9th.  We see each other whenever he feels like it and I basically spend most of my time holed up in my room looking at photographs of us, hoping the phone will ring. (Just ask my roommate from back then, Erin, she'll tell you.)
One day, I meet Ex in his room so we can walk to class together. 

(Just walking.  No hand holding, please. People might think we're tacky, you see.)
 
(Bitter?  Me?  Noooooo.)

I arrive in Ex's room, and he's still getting dressed.  He asks me to please grab a sweater for him.  I willingly oblige.  The sweaters are piled on a shelf at the top of his closet. Just as I reach to select one, he says, 

"Oh wait!  Please, don't look behind my sweaters.  Your Valentine's Day gift is up there!"

I almost die.  Like, Rachel Zoe die.

We are still 9 DAYS from Valentine's Day, and he already has a gift?  Granted, I've had mine finished since January 1, but for my boyfriend to ALREADY have my gift ready to go?  This was going to be good.

I try to hide my excitement, and outwardly pretended like I don't really care.  Inside, though, my brain is hosting a block party. I may or may not have written "Mrs. Ex Boyfriend" 4,000 times in my journal that night.

Ex and I eventually depart for class, but all I can think is: WHAT IS BEHIND THOSE SWEATERS?

The next 9 days are filled with these thoughts:
  • Sweaters can't hold a lot of stuff, really.  It's got to be earrings. I'll take CZ if he says he loves me after I open them.
  • It's a diamond ring.  OH MY GOD, WE'RE GETTING ENGAGED. But he has no money.  We're in college and living on ramen noodles and vodka.  Maybe his Dad lent him the money!!!  I love my future father-in-law!!! 
  • Maybe it's a pair of those Abercrombie jeans he knows I can't afford but want so badly.  But he told me I need to lose a few pounds, so...no.
  • Maybe it's super tacky lingerie and crotchless panties.  This is probably the most likely option.
Finally, February 14th arrives.  Knowing I won't be able to wait until evening, I run down to Ex's room at 8:30 and demand my present.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CANIHAVEIT CANIHAVEIT?

Ex agrees and tells me to close my eyes and sit in his desk chair.  Breathlessly I sit down and hold out my hands, eyes pinched shut.

I hear a thud.  Then a rustling. Wait, is that a plastic sack?  Like a grocery sack? What the hell kind of gift comes in a grocery sack?

Another thump, a shuffle. He coughs. OH my GOD, is he nervous???  Does this mean what I think it means?  Because really, in the past three weeks things have been SO good with him.  He's told me he loved me twice without me asking.  He's given me a kiss on the cheek between classes, and Thursday night at the bar he didn't hit on ONE girl.

This has got to mean something.

Suddenly an object with a decent amount of weight lands in my hands.  This something is too big to be a ring box, too small to be a pair of jeans.

"Aaaand, open!" Ex says with great enthusiasm.

I slowly open my eyes, not sure what I'm about to see.  I look into my hands - and immediately want to shut my eyes again.

No.  This cannot be.  This cannot be my gift.

"Well?  Do you love it?" he asks with genuine excitement.

"It's a cactus, Ex," I say, my voice flat as a pancake.  "A cactus."

"Right! You know how I have my cactus collection here in my room?  I thought it'd be neat for you to start one in your room!  And look, it's in a planter already. And it has the little plastic "Happy Valeintine's Day" thing on it. It's ready to go and you don't have to water it much, so it'll be hard to kill."  

I am thinking of shoving the cactus into an area that would require his hospitalization. Ex rubs his hands together and is looking at me, expecting me to say something about the gift.

My mind instantly flashes back to our first Christmas together.  I bought Ex a brand new watch that was way out of my price range.  I had wrapped it with such care, anticipating the moment he would see it and be beside himself with happiness.  On Christmas, he opened it and shrugged, then said, "Hmm. Do I need a watch?"  

Thinking about this now, I kind of want to say, "Do I need a sharp, prickly plant that only grows in the DESERT?"

Slowly I turn the planter around in my hand and give it a hard look.  The cactus itself isn't horrible looking.  In fact, it's relatively cute.  And I do like Ex's collection in his dorm.  
But it's a cactus. Who gives their girlfriend of two years a CACTUS ON EFFING VALENTINE'S DAY? I realize I have in fact told Ex multiple times that I don't care for roses, but this is hardly what I meant. And then a thought crosses my mind so quickly, I can't quite grab it.  A weird sensation comes over me, like I'm missing something that is glaringly obvious.  I try to conjure the thought again, but it disappears into the back corner of my brain, like a dream that dissolves the moment you wake up.

"And wait!" Ex exclaims. "One more thing!" He is back over in the closet, rummaging on the floor.  Thank God, maybe this is all a joke.

"I got you this, too!"  Ex plops a giant 24-pack of Dr. Pepper at my feet.

"I know how much you love Dr. Pepper, so I got you some,"  He looks like he is expecting a kiss. I sort of want to puke.

Bu then I look into his eyes and realize how excited he is, and I begin to feel bad.  Pathetically I pick at the fuzzes on my sweater.  I mean, so it's a cactus.  So what?  No, he isn't the smoothest gift giver on campus.  So he made a present boo-boo.  At least he finally bought me a Valentine's Day gift that - and then it happens again.  The thought that floated through my mind ten seconds ago has managed to squirm it's way through again, coming through loud and clear.

Ex works at a grocery store. I heard a plastic grocery sack earlier when he was bringing me the gift. Ex has repeatedly bragged that his favorite thing to do is steal plants from his store's floral department because no one is working that section. In fact, it's a point of pride for him that nearly every cactus on his dorm shelf was "Free niney-nine."

Which means he stole my gift. I'm not stupid.  My tacky, ridiculous, ugly CACTUS of a gift was SHOPLIFTED by my boyfriend.  He might have paid for the Dr. Pepper, which cost approximately $4.00.

I heave a huge sigh, and remember that it's supposed to be the thought that counts.  Except I don't believe any thought went into this gift. I've never shown any desire to own a cactus.  Ever. And Ex loves Dr. Pepper as much as I do.  This is a gift for him, not me.

Never mind that upstairs in my dorm, Ex's Valentine's Day surprise is waiting. A hand-made painted box with 365 handwritten notes in it.  365 handwritten memories of our two years together.  A box filled with memories for Ex to take out and read every morning for a year, just so he knows how much I love him.

My gift only cost $8.50 - but it took 18 hours to finish.  I decide then and there that tonight, after Ex gets off work, I'm going to give him my gift. I will lead by example.  After tonight he will know what a TRUE gift from the heart is.  

He has to work until 9:00, and I'm too upset to argue. I kiss him and act grateful, and tell him that his gift is still to come.  Perhaps this Valentine's Day can still be saved.

Or not.


To be continued....

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