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I am writing this the day before that God-forsaken Hallmark idiocy, Valentine’s Day, and it is Friday the 13th. This seems to spell doomed love. There are other kinds of real affection. I have several examples, personally. But as far as passionate romance goes, Gram Parsons once pointed out, “Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness, some fools fool themselves I guess, but they’re not fooling me…I know it isn’t true.”

Cynical? Sure, but I can’t argue for a minute. I’m talking about romantic love, Valentine love, naturally, and not abiding, mature love.

My roommate at the moment is my son. He is 31 and longs for female companionship. Don’t know if it’s love or sex he wants, but he hasn’t had a girlfriend for years. The last time he did, he was beaten with a bicycle chain by a stalking ex-boyfriend of the tender lass. It snapped him mentally. Still, he’s a kind of genius, especially with computers, and his friends are as well. One of them, a member of his local area network for role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, is here now. They are going out to look for chicks.

One chick in particular lives in the building, and they are going to call on her, “Just to see what happens,” Lars shrugs. A good-looking lad, if a bit computer nerdy. A black Pharaoh-like goatee depends from his chin.

My boy puts on his best clean shirt, and they set off reeking of aftershave. Bantam struts are detected in their gaits. They are gone for maybe 20 minutes. Only my son returns. He is walking much slower and goes to the refrigerator immediately. He gets himself a soda and a cold chicken breast. He eats slowly as if it’s his last meal.

“What happened?”

“Nothing.”

“She wasn’t there?”

“No.”

“No, she wasn’t there? Or, no, that’s not what happened?”

No response. It’s left alone.

“I was listening to whatstheirnames, Jeff and Jer? Yesterday. They were fixing this guy up with three possible blind dates. But that wasn’t the funny part. One of them was talking about wine-tasting. How you stick your nose in the glass. One guy was riffing on the imaginary odors, like pear and cherries and stuff. He says, ‘Hmm...I detect corn silos and flat tires.’ ”

No response, except he takes the soda and chicken breast to his room. He slams the door. An urge to strangle some girl I’ve never met overtakes me for a moment.

Bitterness about love is not the result of some recent heartbreak. Just history. And not just mine.

A college-professor friend sometime ago — call him Barry — was devastated by a cute little thing. Half his age, maybe. Smitten, he did all the right things. She responded, dated him, accepted his gifts, put out.

Barry worked in the same La Jolla bookstore as I, waiting for his orals and doctorate. His prospects were excellent, and that was the draw to the Cute Little Thing. You don’t get a Ph.D. overnight. He did, of course, get the title of doctor, but not before C.L.T. was seen smooching with another guy in the same bar/restaurant that Barry and I frequented after work.

At the bar, Barry looked pale, even in the greasy lighting. He was shaking. I told him that young things like that look like delicious apples, but when you bite into them, they taste like wood. He looked up at me, abandoning his hangdog posture for a moment.

“What are you, gay?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I guess. Except for the sex part.”

He laughed, and at that moment a 25-year friendship was formed. It involves a real kind of love, too. Except for the sex part. That was Valentine’s Day in 1984.

Another guy, Terry, became a Catholic priest after a bout of true love gone sour. I don’t see him anymore. He’s in one of those cloistered orders.

My brother (God rest his soul) became a drunk after his wife indulged in carnal knowledge with her photography instructor. My brother moved to Texas from Chicago. Every week or so he’d call, and I would be lucky if I could understand nine slurred words. A fierce and fast-moving cancer saved him from a bad alcoholic’s death.

I loved him.

To paraphrase Parsons again: I’m not young, I know, but even so my heart’s not strong anymore or tough enough to take a lot of pain... Love is like a damned thunderhead. I can smell rain about to fall, and it smells like wet ashes…it brings a hell of a lot of rain.

I expect a downpour any day now. We’ve had enough of them this winter.

It is now Saturday morning, Valentine’s Day. Partly cloudy but cold. Colder than I remember in almost 30 years in San Diego.

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Comments

EricBlair Feb. 25, 2009 @ 7:20 p.m.

Hi John....

Well, I cannot speak to the situation with Barry.

But you helped me through a toneless and spiritually novocain'ed divorce and at least two fulminating and spectacularly dramatic cases of bad relationships. For all the sturm und drang, my ex-wife actually wishes me well from time to time. The other two, not so much. A lesson there, I guess, about intensity and drama?

Still, things worked out for me, having just celebrated ten years of marriage (and thanks for having come to that event in 1998).

Proof again that I am far, far luckier than I merit. Lucky, too, in my choice of friends.

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EricBlair Feb. 25, 2009 @ 7:30 p.m.

Also, John, I was waiting for the Poison Apple metaphor!

Which brings me to Bel Biv Devoe's song "Poison."

Still, the right person is the Holy Grail. The winners of the Grail are not the virtuous or deserving. Take it from me.

I'm just lucky.

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