The whiskey burned as it hit the back of my throat, nearly forcing me to choke.
My coughing was relentless then next 20 minutes. But I managed to inhale a few more swigs between hacks.
Valentine’s Day again. Calling it a holiday was offensive, not only to atheists but to everyone. It wasn’t a holiday. Nobody got paid to enjoy the day off from work. Not even those psycho postal employees.
I thoroughly agreed with the realists who called it Hallmark Day — just another way for the greeting card companies to turn a profit between Christmas and Mother’s Day. It was a long stretch and they probably needed a boost, I was willing to grant them that. But at whose expense.
Mine. I mean, lots of people’s. And I wasn’t talking about the cash. I had enough to go out and buy a five dollar cardboard cutout. Even had twenty bucks lying around to buy a rose and maybe some candy.
But that wasn’t what was costing me.
Twenty-one of these damned February fourteen days and still nothing to like about it. Not once had I ever been with someone on that most sacred of days for lovers. Or so I’d been told it was sacred for lovers. Ha! I wouldn’t know. Nor would I allow myself even the slightest taste of hope that I would ever know. There were only about fifty more of them in my lifetime before I could happily ignore them. Of course, by then I’d be dead and probably wouldn’t be doing much ignoring of anything.
(Another swig) That one went down just fine.
The entire marketing was laughable really. Why did anyone need a day to honor the person they were already doting on? It was like the right to acknowledge you didn’t care about that person the day before or the day after. Just as long as you paid attention on that specific day — this year a Friday, making it suck all the more because the bars and restaurants would be packed with couples pretending they truly loved one another. Heck, maybe they did. But if that were the case, they didn’t need to go out and flaunt it in front of me … uh, the rest of us.
I looked at my bottle. About a fourth of the way gone. I was feeling good too. The bars were beckoning. Stevie and I had already vowed to meet up in a bit to make fun of the cuddlers.
Even more depressing, Valentine’s Day or not, I hardly had any prospects. I’d dated plenty, been serious once. But right now, the cupboard was bare.
In the middle of my next swig a face popped up in my mind. Darla. The girl from psychology class. We’d talked a few times and she’d asked for my number. Said maybe we could get together to study.
Then my phone rang. No ID on the screen. It was local. She was local. My heart rate kicked into full gear.
I took a swig. Clicked the send button.
“Yo, where are you?”
It was Stevie. “You still coming?”
“Whose number is this?” I asked.
“I’m at a pay phone at the bar,” he said. “I left my mobile at home. Wanted to let you know in case you were trying to reach me. Dude, you gotta hurry up. There are some total saps here. We’re going to have a great time laughing at these losers.”
“Sorry, I lost track of time,” I said. “Be there in a few.”
I hung up. Felt my heart rate slow.
I raised the bottle in silent salute to St. Valentine, whoever the hell he was. Time to head to the bar and enjoy the rest of the holiday.