It all started thirty-five years ago, the day after Valentine's. Just as dawn rose, he stirred inside the womb. They'd all said he'd come in mid-to-late March, but he wasn't playing by that book. He had his own designs.
In a stunning turn of impatience, he wanted out now. I'm not even born yet, he ruminated, and already they're telling me how to live my life. It didn't sit right with him, not one bit. What did they know, anyhow? Who were they to dictate terms. Let me show them what I can do!
Out he came, later that evening, forcing his four-pound will upon his mother's body and the hospital staff. With complete disregard for even his own lungs or liver, he debuted and was immediately swept into an incubator for the next nine days to develop an intimate relationship with bilirubin lights.
This isn't right, he thought, this isn't right at all! Soon, he started to think I should've waited...maybe they knew something I didn't know. With tiny hot dog legs and translucent fingers, he raged against the electrodes glued to him and the surgeon's mask the nurses fitted as a cap for the minuscule premie.
He came home, and spent many months refusing to eat. When he did eat, it was only so that he could strategically vomit everything back up. Screw passive aggression, he'd say to himself, I'm going to be actively aggressive. All of his parents' clothes sported blueberry badges and mustard medallions.
On the eve of his first birthday, he felt a special glee. It's almost my birthday! This day...this day is special. This Valentine's business...this day of love...it's the perfect lead-in to the celebration of me. He celebrated by peeing directly in his father's ear with a stunning display of aim and timing.
Years passed, and soon enough he was in kindergarten at one of Chicago's finest Catholic schools. Valentine's day came, and that glee still infected him. His class spent the day making Valentines for each other out of Elmer's glue and construction paper. Jennifer, with a blush to her cheeks and pigtails in her hair, gave him his first ever Valentine. "Guess what!" he said. "Tomorrow's my birthday!" She giggled, and she made a passing glance in both directions. And then she kissed him. Right on the lips.
I knew this day was special, he thought. I hope it's always like this.
He grew, and grew, and grew some more. Along with husky pants from Sears came a precociousness that most of the other kids really loathed. On Valentine's day, the beefy kid with glasses and an intellectual superiority complex started receiving zero Valentines. He celebrated in the third grade by peeing in his pants and hiding in the boy's room, in a stunning lack of aim or timing.
In the sixth grade, on a Valentine's Saturday, he sat around the house playing with GI Joes, bitterly wondering where it all went wrong. The phone rang. Mindy from his class was on the other end, and explained with a giggle that her friend Melissa thought he was cute and wanted to go out.
Stunned into silence, he didn't know what to say. So he simply didn't. He convinced himself it was a prank and went about his GI Joe business. One month later, he'd discover it was no prank when a tearful Melissa slapped him on his pudgy cheek during recess.
This would be the theme of that cursed day throughout his teens, into his twenties, and even early thirties. He just wasn't good at it. At people. Valentine's day would always be nothing more than the dreaded precursor to his birthday, even when he was in a relationship. Much to the chagrin of his girlfriends, it was always underplayed and undercelebrated.
Happy Valentine's Day! And another year older!
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