Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celebrate Your Fake Holiday with True Love





American culture's as driven to group us off in mating pairs as any prospective dog breeder ever could be. Nonetheless, this Valentine's Day I find myself remembering a masked man, stalking a riverside bar and grill patio with a secretive purpose...

You know, frankly, people inspired by romance don't need a designated day, moreso than anyone should need a day for thanks or one for giving (though harvest and Yule have perfectly poetic meanings, in days gone by). What can I say? I'm very contrary about being told when to feel what, much less what to do. (Ask the poor manager of said bar & grill). Be sure, those who've found their truth in a solitary lot don't need the Hallmark "holiday," however little they may begrudge others their pookie-poo.

Well, if you're going to put up with a romantic tale may as well have a comedy.

Cease met a girl, who we'll call "Angela Dawn", at that very bar&grill where his roomie & sis worked, one Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday (the teens were on the prowl, free from school). I picture as though it happened to me! Oh, yeah, it did. Cue first person narration:

She waits on me and my roomie; I have a Heinekin, the beer of choice for celebrating black holidays, of course. With my new license still in flux, she decides to be cute and card me. She lets me slide with my temporary permit. She also neglects to tell a rather obnoxious girl, who "worked" as the hostess, that I'm present, blissfully unaware of our sordid past, celebrated by said girl in gushing terms of friendship.

Our Angela Dawn waitress turns out to be great friends with Sis & Roomie. One day, as classic rock ---was it Neil Young's first solo record? He was even counter-culture trendy, right about then---played out of my adjoining bedroom, we realize she's sitting in my lap while my sister & all of us are playing in the living room. We were pushing each other off the back of the couch, which we treated as a place to stand, and in the rotation of shoving, we end up in said position, holding hands. We like it. "I've been waiting for you...and you've been coming to me...for such a long time now..." Neil sang. But really...it's casual!

It must've been around that time, about a week after we met, that I was walking from the riverside bar & grill to one of my last shifts at Red Lobster. I'd already served my notice; with my meager savings, I was going to throw my life to the winds and take a bus ride to Colorado, maybe Boulder, work some crappy landscaping job and write songs on my guitar. Change was in the air. Unfortunately, so was my sister's generously-loaned Corsica, which I promptly, in a fit of oblivious day dreaming, drove over the parking stop outside, suspending the front wheels just out of reach of the precious traction needed to back up. With everyone coming out during the slow afternoon shift to admire my handiwork, including my fuming sis, Angela Dawn comes up and throws her arms around the back of me, cajoling: "he's JUST a man..."


A week more passes, and we're back at the shared apartment, fresh off a breezy trip including my mysterious errand alone into the Kroger grocery store, where, Angela and my sister speculated, I was purchasing Preparation H. When we return, we discover we're locked out, with the keys located with our roomie at, yes, the bar & grill. (Geez, I just realized this whole thing should be an extended apology to my little sister!) Apparently this was just too much for my groove: I kicked open the door without hesitation. At the top of the stairs, I turn to Angela and hand her a carnation, press my finger to my lips, and walk into my room and shut the door. I had just sensed a deep need to bring some cheer to the girl, who, despite her friendliness, exuded a sadness, a lack of appetite, that I simply found unjust. If I cared to cheer anyone up, perhaps it would've been my sister, who in response to her newly-broken front door, decimated a Pepto Bismol bottle in the bathroom, rather than her erratic older brother.

Angela Dawn's sister simply wanted to cheer the poor girl up, too; she would sneak chicken into her salad at work in a ploy to keep some meat on her bones. She knew her sis well--they were practically twins---and while the sisters (mine included) went out bowling the next night, her older sis grabbed Angela softly by the arms and chanted my name three times, just to see her smile. Of course, falling for a guy who was leaving town held little promise; it was just an unhappiness, so profound as to cloud the very hope of tomorrow. What drove that sadness, only she could say, and eventually, she would, the first time we were truly alone. Thanks to my sister, who blabbed my importance to the forlorn girl, that happened the very next night.

It's nine o'clock; Angela Dawn's the first cut on a slow night, cleaning up her section. My sister called me to come up and join everyone. Shortly after arriving, I put a couple of songs on the jukebox, and while sharing a sip of Honey Brown Lager, I ask her to dance with me while "Crazy" by Patsy Cline of all things plays. I take her for a walk, leading us over the lighted bridge to a one-eyed black man who asks if we're married. "Not yet!" I reply, cheekily. Of course, he's locked out of the house that night, but he keeps us company by the gazebo for a while, then hits me up for a buck.

We improvise a piggy-back ride down the bank, and turn down Broad Street on our winding way back to the bar & grill. In the middle of an old backstage passage quaintly dubbed "Opera Alley" by the tourist bureau, I look up, say I'm looking for a sign. She begins looking for a billboard of some kind, but whatever she imagined I wanted her to find ended up in our first kiss.

Soon, her sister has us sitting in their shared Mercury Topaz, running down the plot of JOB by Robert A. Heinlein, a story about two people whose affair is constantly interrupted by shifting alternate Earth dimensions, wherein they must survive and find each other, again and again. Reality led us all back to their house, where I serendipitously found the first family to ever sit up entertaining an unexpected guest with unreserved friendliness into the wee hours of the morning. On that couch Angela Dawn unburdened herself to me, and by the morning light, when they gave me a lift back into town, I told her we'd simply take things one day at a time, always with free choice. If some providence might shine, or we're really, really good, dedicated and true and open-minded, we will know what it is to form a bond with someone else, so life-changing as the one forged that day. To love someone so much as we would love, from that friendship, is to know a love for all creation.

Free choice led me to pop the unconventional question "come West with me" maybe three days later, and hey, while we're at it, on the next I simply asked her to marry me. We then had a very special next day that will not here be narrated, and to the extreme surprise of every one, we set a day for her ordained minister father to tie our knot with the rest of the world as our witness, six weeks after we first met.

Oh, there's a couple of good stories connected to that date setting, too...but for now, let me tell you the next week found her scrawling her new married name on her styrofoam cup at work, still wondering exactly how to spell that strange new appellation. It's on this Valentine's Day that a young man in a bandanna stealthily entered the side door from the patio with her first rose---he'd just learned, that pink carnation was her first Flower---left on the podium, seen only by a heartily laughing waitress friend of ours, who soon afterwards expressed a certain pang of envy, that her own true love might need to step on it and pop the question. Well, the joke was on her---he did that night, I believe. So it's likely a Valentine's Day none of us will forget.

I hope this one, in its own way, will be memorable to you, as well, my friends.


by the Shiz-Nite
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