Valentine's Day was never great for me before I met Hubs. It always seemed to be a huge disappointment, whether I was with a guy or not.
Of course, there were a few years when Valentine's Day sucked even more than usual. Not surprisingly, those years were when I was with Ex. I don't know if he was genetically doomed to fail on V-day or if it was just a huge coincidence, but the guy had problems when it came to February 14th.
I already told you about one of our V-day train wrecks.. Now let me share another...
After the teeth incident, Ex and I are determined to have a better Valentine's Day than the year prior. Or at least I am. Ex doesn't really care one way or the other because "technically, we aren't together, Kim. Remember that."
Two days before the big day, I go out and buy a cute little red dress and brand new heels to wear for our date. In the back of my mind, I hear my mother warning, "Don't wear new shoes the day of an event. You need to break them in or you'll get blisters!" But really, what does she know anyway? She'd probably tell me not to put the items on a credit card, either.
That evening I prepare like any other 21 year old girl. I skip three classes to make sure my hair is styled and shiny, my make-up expertly applied and legs shaved to perfection. I am ready to go.
At 7:00 sharp, my roommate's date knocks on the door. I usher him in, noting the huge bouquet of roses he's brought for her. Points for Cute Dark Haired Guy! R eappears from her room in a swirl of perfume and confidence, wishes me well and is out the door with her could-be future husband.
Finally, at 7:28, Ex breezes in. There's no need to knock when you're used to popping by at 2:00 am for a little snuggle, right?
I stand in the kitchen, leaning against a chair in my sexiest pose.
"Hey! Look what I have!" Ex grins and pulls a bottle of champagne out from behind his back.
"Wow, champagne! We're going to drink before we go to dinner?" I'm surprised to see champagne as an appetizer rather than a post-dinner toast. Oh well. I stick my chest out a little. "You look nice, Ex."
"Really?" He looks down at his shirt. "It's what I've been wearing all day, but thanks!" Clearly he does not realize I am fishing for a compliment.
"So what do you think of my dress?" I ask, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.
Ex crosses to the kitchen cabinet in search of glassware for the champagne. Finding none, he settles on two Pizza Shuttle plastic cups and pops the cork on the champagne bottle. He glances at me as his eyebrows knit together. "Haven't you always had that dress?"
"No," I sigh and rub my temple. "It's a brand new dress, and I bought it especially for tonight." I stop myself from berating him for not calling the last three nights. And technically, he did call last night at 3:00 am. Granted, it was to ask me the name of the middle Brady Bunch boy so he could win a bet, but a call's a call.
"Cheers!" Ex thursts a glass of the bubbling liquid into my hand. He downs three cups in the time I'm able to get one down. I immediately feel buzzed from starving myself all day to look skinny in this dress. Ex is quite tipsy, too, but I suspect he won't drive unless he feels comfortable.
I'm ushered to his SUV and we head down the road. I ask several times where we're going, but he won't provide an answer. Five minutes later, we pull into a rather expensive (on a college budget, anyway) restaurant that I've always loved.
"Ex, this is great!" I exclaim, grasping his forearm. "I can't believe you're taking me here! This is SO sweet of you!" I kick myself for being such a downer earlier. Perhaps Ex has finally turned a corner.
"Well," he squirms in his seat and won't meet my gaze. "We're going to go Dutch, right? I mean, it's cheaper to split the bill in half than have one of us pay the entire bill, right?" He looks at lap.
"Oh." I awkwardly fiddle with a crease in my dress. "I just thought this was your gift for Valentine's Day. But yeah, it's fine, I can pay for my part." No point in ruining the night. He did pay for the champagne after all.
Dinner is relatively drama free. There's only one moment of awkardness when I lean in for a kiss while we're awaiting our table and am denied. But I'm used to that.
After our stomachs are full, the waiter brings the check and I dig in my purse for my debit card, careful not to make a big deal out of the splitting of the check. As I lay the card on the table, I notice Ex has only laid down $5.00 cash and a sheet of paper.
"Babe, $5.00 isn't going to cover your part of the meal," I explain. "What are you doing?"
"Oh, no it's okay." Ex turns the piece of paper over, revealing a large font that scream $25.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE. "Mom gave me this gift certificate for Christmas, so I figure now's a good time to use it. This way I was able to have a few extra drinks. Cool, huh?" He smiles.
I immediatley place my steak knife under a napkin where I won't be tempted to grab it and cut off his manhood. Ex could have easily let me use the gift certificate, or at least SPLIT it with me. Instead, he's using it all for himself. Suddenly, I find myself immediately reverting back to excuses for him. To be fair, it is his Mom's gift to him, so maybe he should be allowed to use it as he wants.
Plus, I work at a waitressing job that pays more money than Ex, and really, I am capable of paying for my own meal. This is the 21st centrury. Men don't always have to pick up the check. Maybe I'm being too hard on him. Maybe this is the best he can do. He did bring me to this restaurant knowing I loved it. I should cut him a break.
"Okay, so what's next?" I ask, averting my eyes frm the gift certificate. Perhaps the answer to my question will redeem my faith in him.
Ex plays with his ear. "I thought we'd go drive by the Campanile on campus. Just a romantic drive, ya know?" He looks up slowly to see my reaction.
"That would be fantastic!" I exclaim, a smile once again on my face. "Let's go!"
A quick five minute drive finds us at the Campanile, easily the highest point of the University. At night, it's lit up and beautiful. The perfect romantic spot. The night air is chilly and hovering below 40 degrees. Ex suggests we walk over to the Campanile to look at it more closely.
"I don't have a coat," I say. "I'll freeze!"
"Nah, I'll keep you warm. Besides, we'll just go quickly."
Then it hits me. He's totally going to ask me to be his exclusive girlfriend again. Finally, after a year and a half of ups and downs and lefts and rights, he's come to his senses. We're finally going to be a couple again.
I all but leap out of the SUV and run to the center of the Campanile. Ex lazily trails behind me, looking up at the stars and examining the tall structure.
He walks through the entrance and admires the text on the walls, telling the history of the landmark. After a beat, he approaches me, gives me a kiss and slap on the butt and says, "Pretty cool, yeah? Let's head over to the Hawk, they have $2.00 draws tonight."
So much for romanticism.
Back inside the SUV, Ex's eyes shift. This might not be good.
"Hey! Wanna do something crazy?" Usually this question is followed by the suggestion of something ife-threatening that I would never in a million years agree to.
I sigh. "I don't know, what do you want to do?" A nice make-out session in the car would work for me.
Ex tightens his hands around the wheel. "Let's drive down this friggin' hill." His eyes gleam.
Okay, first of all, Campanile sits atop a very, very large hill. That's why it's called CAMPANILE HILL. An attempt to drive down it would be an almost 90 degree drop. No thank you. Second of all, it's illegal. I don't feel like spending the night in jail. This not having been my first illegal rodeo with Ex, I appeal to the only thing that can stop him. His love for his car.
"Seriously, that's a BIG drop," I say. "Remember what happened at the pond? You don't want that again." I'm referring to the time Ex decided to drive down a big hill near the man made pond at his house. His car had come thisclose to rolling into the water. If it had, the vehicle, his baby, would have been totaled.
"Ah, that was just a mistake in judgement! This hill isn't even that steep!" Clearly his mind is made up. He puts the car in gear. "Put your seatbelt on, and I'll show you that I know how to handle this hill. It's all about geometry, Kim."
"You failed geometry, Ex."
"But I know my car, and I know what she can handle. Hang on! HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! WOOOOOOOO!"
The Rodeo lurches forward and my stomach heaves as the vehicle hops the curb and begins its descent down the steep slope. I hope there are no uber-romantic couples laid out on the grass in a make-out section, because we'll kill them.
My hands grip the handle above the window and I silently pray to anyone who is listening that my parents not be told I died in a freak Isuzu Rodeo Hill Challenge.
Forty heart pounding seconds later, Ex slows the SUV down. The vehicle jump the curb at the bottom of the hill and lands safely on the street below the tower. We are alive.
Ex is ecstatic. He slams his fist into the steering wheel in celebration. "I TOLD you, Kim. It's all about knowing what your car is capa-"
"What the hell was that?" Shear panic crosses Ex's face as the steering wheel begins to violently shake. "The steering just...I can't steer the car! What is going on?"
The SUV heaves a resistant sigh as Ex uses all his strength to steer it to the side of the road. I instinctively search for my wallet, trying to remember if I have my AAA card with me.
Three minutes later, Ex has completed his expert analysis of the problem. "I don't know what it is," he says, dejected. "I think I popped something in the axle by the front tire. It's detached or something. I can't drive it."
I roll my eyes. "Well, what are we going to do? I just looked and my AAA card is expired. I didn't renew this year."
"Why wouldn't you renew that? You lock your keys in the car all the time, Kim." I let his comment slide, knowing he's just upset and acting out. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. I have to be the calm one or we'll get nowhere fast.
"Look, we'll call a tow truck, okay? That's all we can do."
Just then, as if on cue, a campus police car pulls along side the Rodeo. Ex rolls down the window and explains that something on his truck has broken and he's on a first date with his Valentine. Feeling sorry for my liar of a non-boyfriend, the policemen calls the cheapest tow truck he knows. He also asks if we need a ride.
"No, we've got friends that can pick us up, but thanks!" I, of course, know Ex turned down the ride for fear the police officer would get a whiff of Ex's champagne breath and send him straight to jail.
Twenty minutes later, the Rodeo is loaded up and headed back to Ex's apartment. The two of us stand outside, scrolling through our phones to find a ride. My roommate doesn't answer. My co-workers don't answer. No one on Ex's end is picking up, either.
We are stranded.
"Well, look, I know where Scottie is," Ex reassures. "He's at the Hawk dancing, which is where we wanted to go anyway. We can just walk there and have him give us a ride home after they close."
I look at my non-boyfriend, amazed at the words coming out of his mouth. "Ex, it's only 10:30! The Hawk doesn't close until 2:00! I don't want to go drink at a BAR on Valentine's Day. I thought we were going to rent a movie and just hang out!"
"What else are we going to do, Kim? Walk home? We're at least 5 miles away from your apartment." He scoffs. "You'll never make it in those shoes." I don't know whether to be more surprised that Ex is suggesting we walk home, or that he's actually mad at me for wearing attractive footwear on a VALENTINE'S DAY DATE.
He kicks at the dirt beneath his feet, searching for something to convince me to go with his plan.
"How about this?" he offers. "We'll go to the Hawk and try to convince Scottie to take us home. If he won't, we'll have ONE drink, and then we'll call SafeRide and they'll take us back to your place. Deal?"
I can tell I don't have a choice. But I am fed up. I square my shoulders and look at Ex in the eyes like a parent talking to a misbehaved child.
"Fine. And thanks so much for getting us into this," I can feel my eyes blazing. "If you hadn't insisted we go down that damn hill, we'd be home by now. I really appreciate your ever-present display of maturity."
Ex isn't even phased by my tantrum. He shrugs. "Hey, I've told you a hundred times, if you think you can find a guy who's going to love you and treat you better than me, go for it. Excuse me for trying to have an adventure with you."
I have no reply. He has a point. He is usually really good to me. He did try to make this night nice. And I did have an adventure with him. He could have chosen to go out with any number of girls tonight, and he did pick me. That has to say something about how much he cares about me. But I'm still mad.
For the next twenty minutes, we walk in silence. I almost laugh at the sound of my heels on the pavement. When I was convincing myself I could handle a little "new shoe pain" this afternoon, a mile walk to a bar was certainly not what I was anticipating. I silently score one point for my Mom and her infinite wisdom.
As we finally approach The Hawk, the music blaring from the building gives me an instant pit in my stomach. Or is that the steak from dinner rolling around due to my hour of unanticipated exercise?
Ex immediately finds his friend Scottie, who is having a wonderful time and refuses to leave. The bouncer allows me to come in without paying the $7.00 cover as long as I stand against the wall and don't try and dance. I assume the pool of blood gathering at my feet aided him in his decision to let me stay.
Miraculously, Ex's roommate eventually tires and agrees to take us and his two new female friends home around midnight. The five of us pile into the too-small car that smells like evergreen air freshner.
From the laughs and singing going on around me, it's clear that everyone but me is having a great time. This includesEx, who managed to find a few beers in the bar and finds this entire scenario hilarious.
"So are you two, like, dating?" Bimbo #1 asks, turning around in the front seat.
I don't answer and stare straight ahead.
"Don't mind her," Ex pipes in. "She's had a kind of rough night."
"But are you two on a date?" Bimbo #2 presses.
"Uh, yeah, kind of," Ex replies. "We were out for Valentine's Day, but she isn't my girlfriend right now." He seems to think this clears everything up.
Bimbo #1 pauses, and in two seconds puts together the pieces of a puzzle I've taken over a year to solve. "So you're just boink buddies, then?"
The car is silent.
"Oh look, we're here!" Ex is out of the car and in the apartment before I've even managed to get my seatbelt off.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Ex." I whisper, wondering how in the world this Valentine's Day turned out to be worse than last year...and how many more I'd have to endure before I called it a day.
(Thankfully, Hubs was just a mere five years around the corner, ready to provide me unconditional love and happiness for the rest of my life.)
(And for the record, Hubs never once split the check with me when we were dating.)