I wanted this night to be perfect. Still young, in love, and just learning to cook, I spent Valentine's Day afternoon of my senior year at U.C. Berkeley learning how to prepare the perfect romantic meal. Savory roast chicken was just resting out of the oven. Potatoes perfectly browned and studded with rosemary, neared completion in my Victorian flat's kitchen. A bottle of some sort of inexpensively priced red wine, fresh bread and green salad studded with avocado waited on the table. All I needed was my man.
We had been dating nearly four years, and life seemed to be on a predictable path. We studied hard; we spent every free minute together and were exclusively in love. This was the real deal.
The front door to the house creaked open and slammed shut. The candles flickered and romantic music played on the stereo. I was dressed in my black velvet, fishnet stockings and boots. My heart pounded with anticipation. The apartment door opened. He walked in.
A look of astonishment on his face.
But it was not because of the surroundings, the aromatic scent of dinner, or me.
“I couldn't believe what I saw on the way home. You know that flower stand on Telegraph Avenue?” he asked.
“Yes,” I stammered, trying to hold back the mix of disappointment and anxiety sure to give me away.
“Well, I was walking home, thinking about you and Valentine's Day,” he continued.
A glimmer of hope flickered across my mind.
“And then I noticed the flower stand. The one on the street.”
Just spill it. Tears stung the back of my eyelids.
“And there were all these stupid looking guys just lined up, waiting to buy flowers. I stopped for a moment, and then I thought, gosh, I'm so glad that I have Jen. She doesn't care about all that funny romantic Valentine's Day stuff, that ritualistic, obligatory purchase of red roses just because it's February 14. She sees through this corporate sponsored day designed to increase sales of flowers and candy just to make money. So I kept walking home.”
My jaw dropped. How the hell did he ever get that message? Where are my damn roses? My chocolate?
The floodgates opened, tears spilling down my perfectly powdered cheeks. The black mascara, once so carefully applied, now oozed unattractively down my face. I sniffed.
“Oh sweetie, what's wrong?” he questioned. Isn't it obvious? I thought.
The realization of his error hit him like a load of wet cement. Panic washed over his entire body, and he headed towards the door.
“Sweetie, I had no idea Valentine's Day was so important to you. I assumed you could care less about it, and that I would bring you roses one day when I felt like I wanted to, not when I had to,” he sputtered, trying to squelch my tears. “I'll run down to the corner and get you some. I'm so sorry.”
I took a deep breath. I felt ashamed, shallow and confused. “No, it's fine, don't go,” I replied. “Sit down, dinner is ready.”
“Are you sure?” he responded.
“Yes, I'm sure. But just for future reference—I do care. And please don't ever do that again.”
And 30 years and two children later, he never has.