If last night was the best Valentine's day of my life - and I'm quite sure that it was - then I suppose it's only fitting that part two in this little series recounts the unequivocal worst. There is one thing to be said in favor of having a truly abominable Valentine's Day at some point or another in your life: you can rest assured that so long as you're drawing breath, whatever next year and the years after that bring can't possibly be any worse. Eleven years ago, I had mine.
You'll need a little back story for this post. At the time, I was dating a girl named Emma. We had been friends at college, lost touch for a bit, and then drifted back into one another's lives and began dating. Emma's father, with whom she lived at the time, suffered from bi-polar disorder. I'm not absolutely claiming that said hereditary disease had also begun to affect his daughter - I'm neither a doctor nor do I play one in the blog-o-sphere - but I am going to leave the idea here and move on.
By this particular Valentine's Day, our relationship was in a heap of trouble. For my part, I was ignoring warning signs left and right, desperately clinging to the fewer-and-further-between good moments as though they were breath itself. It's the kind of thing you do when you want to be in love; when you are actually in love, you simply set about fixing the problems. She was completely inscrutable by this point: lovable and cuddly one moment, distant and icy the next, step right up and take your chances kid. In retrospect, we should have just dated while we were still in college, crashed and burned then, and gotten it out of our systems before we were a bit older and a bit more serious. Retrospect is a genius and the present is often a bumbling idiot, though, as proven by the fact that we were taking our dying relationship up to Boston in order to scope out some place to maybe move to and live. Thank God we broke up before that scenario could play out.
Valentine's Day fell during our trip to Boston. I think it was near the end of our stay. I say "I think" because this was unquestionably THE bummer vacation of all time, sort of like if the movie Groundhog Day had somehow taken the bad acid. In the week we were there, we made maybe two half-assed attempts to look at neighborhoods and/or apartments. We did that in the first two days. The rest of the time, every day went exactly like this:
* Wake up right at the crack of 4 PM.
* Get showered and moving by about 6 PM.
* Have dinner in some chain restaurant or other on Route 1 near the hotel.
* Take random ride to some area of Boston, see all the sights there are to see on a dark, snowy February evening in New England. Stop somewhere to shop for absolutely nothing at all.
* Go back to the hotel so Emma can call her mother.
* Venture out for late-night meal at whatever eatery was open around 2 AM.
* Watch late night TV (often consisting of what seemed like hours of Family Feud as hosted by the guy from Home Improvement) and listen to Emma bitch about some "ailment" or other (none medically verifiable) until sunrise and pass-out, generally in that order.
To be fair, two good things happened during this fantastic death-trip: Newbury Comics was good, as always, for some great vinyl, and in watching so much late-night TV I encountered the utter genius of SCTV for the first time. Other than those two things, though, the whole vacation was a slow trudge through Disintegration City. I've been on terrible vacations before and since, but none of them could even come within shouting distance of this one. Perhaps the best day was the last one: true, I found myself at home in my own bed at the end of it, but getting there was quite the ordeal. In the morning, we went to the emergency room, where a doctor told Emma that the jaw pain she'd been complaining of was unquestionably psychosomatic. From there, we headed home via Salem, where we went to the Witch Museum. Did Emma mention that some of her relatives were witches? Did she really need to? All in all, a fitting end to one hell of a journey.
But I'm a bit ahead of myself, mostly because this Valentine's Day derived from the rest of the awful trip only in that we had dinner that night at Bennigan's, a chain I'm disappointed to learn is still in business. We may also have exchanged cards; that idea rings a faint bell for me. Talk about true romance! I also remember sitting at the table in the room, drinking a few beers while she took her fifteenth nap of the day. I think that happened on Valentine's Day, but who can really be sure at this late date? I remember briefly thinking somewhere around the fourth beer that being alone might actually be more fun than this. I was correct: while it would be a few years before the really good Valentine's Days started rolling in again, even the in between ones were never this abysmal.
It's a bit of a depressing story, granted, but there is an amusing postscript to it. Just over three years later, Rhea and I are taking one of our first trips as an OFFICIAL COUPLE up to Boston to do some music shopping and just generally spend a day somewhere else. This entire trip happened on a whim, and as such we hadn't bothered with any silly details like, oh, finding a place to stay for the night ahead of time. So Rhea calls her best friend, who finds us a good rate on a place on her computer. We get directions and drive there...and I'm sure you can all see where this is headed. We are at the front desk filling out paperwork for a few minutes before exactly which hotel we've ended up in dawns on me. Rhea looks at me: "You look a bit pale - is everything alright?" It's a good thing she didn't tell me I looked like I'd seen a ghost, because in a way I had.
I told her everything was fine, which it was. After all, how many chances for random redemption do you really get in life? I'm just glad Rhea never asked too many questions about how I knew exactly where the nearest grocery store and Newbury Comics were.