Updated: Jan 26
"What did you get her?"
"I swear. Not a fan of this day. Whatsoever."
"It's not about you."
"It's a made-up holiday."
"Doesn't matter what you think. It's what she thinks. And what she wants."
Perched on a stool at The Well, leaning forward, two stacked fists supporting my head above the cherrywood bar, I shift and glance at my best friend and day-drinking companion. My chin remains on top of my fists, but I still deliver a look of annoyance.
"Or what she expects," he adds.
"Says the guy who just bought himself two six-dollar beers."
I straighten up, spin on the stool to face my friend. "Whose side are you on?"
"Yours. And I'm rooting for you to come away from this day with your girlfriend still by your side."
"Good luck with that. Just be sure to gift-wrap that attitude of yours before you get home. I gotta head out."
My friend leaves. “Et tu beers, Brute?” I call out as he magically disappears through the sun-drenched doorway. I simultaneously think about what to get her and nod to my real best friend -- the bartender – in turn, ordering myself another round of procrastination.
“It’s just me now.”
By the time my eyes are squinting to adjust to the now setting sun, I realize I’m late.
“I hate this day.”
I turn the corner and come face-to-face with a felony in progress. Maybe it’s a misdemeanor. I don’t know. Maybe it depends on the mood the cop is in on that particular day. Who knows? Regardless, I stop to watch a street artist in action, finishing up a new piece he created with spray paint and stencils. I’ve seen his work around town through the years. First time seeing him live in action.
He glances over his shoulder, assessing me while tossing cans of paint into his backpack.
“You write that?”
“You ever get caught?”
“Please don’t jinx me. Not today.”
He finishes packing up and without looking back, Houdinis into an alley.
I stare at the piece, magic hour still making me squint.
I pull out my phone, thumb at the screen, open the camera, raise my arm, and frame up a photo.
Just then a police car pulls up. Cop gets out – just like in the movies.
“Did you paint that?”
“Do I look like I painted it?”
“Did you see who did?”
“Fucking snitches get fucking stitches,” the beer in me says – out loud.
“What?” the cop says as he takes a step toward me.
I run – just like in the movies.
I hear his footsteps pursuing, then slowly fading behind me, but I never break my stride as I bolt homeward. On my way, I pass a drug store, a candy store, and a florist.
Breathing heavily, I enter our apartment.
“What happened? Are you ok?”
“I got chased. By a cop!”
“For over ten blocks.”
“It’s a long story,” I pant.
“Where were you?”
“Had to meet with Cohen.”
“Tell him I said hi.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Will do, next time.”
“You smell like beer. Were you drinking?”
“No. And by no, I mean yes. Just a few. For old times sake.”
“A few? That means three. Did you have three?”
“Babe. No. I did not have three. I swear.”
She starts to cry.
“That means you had four. Today? You really don’t care.”
“I do care.”
She outstretches her arms and says ‘gimme’ with her hands.
I just stand there. Nothing to offer. Zero-point-zero.
She sighs. “You didn’t get me anything.”
“So… are we going out?”
“I’m tired. Thought we’d stay in.”
“We always stay in,” she wines. “I got you a six-pack of that beer you love. Ordered it online. It arrived last week. And a copy of that graphic novel you mentioned was coming out this week. The one with Batman in it.”
“The Batman,” I correct her.
Silence. Her face drains of all color and all emotion.
“You didn’t even think about me today.” She huffs and puffs and stomps toward the bedroom.
Can’t tell how mad she really is. A SLAM! of the door clearly indicates this one goes to eleven.
I’m the most idiotic guy I know.
I think about the fact I woke up this morning knowing exactly what day it was, pondered what to do, and even wrote down a list of ideas and edited it, before ultimately deeming any romantic action to be dumb. I then crumpled up the list and threw it out, refusing to be sensible and nice. Instead, I took to the streets and texted my friend to meet me at The Well in the middle of the busy day to have some beers and vanish for a few hours. I got pissed and, in turn, created this dilemma I’m now some sixty seconds into.
I’m a dick. Like that guy. That guy you hate in the movies.
I stand in the living room looking for a way out.
I take out my phone, swipe at the screen, thumb open text messages and the endless chain between me and the girl sulking in the other room. I stare at the little keys thinking of something big to say to her – something creative, something funny, something romantic.
I come up short.
Thumb tapping, I open my photos, attach one – the pic I took of the street art.
I hit send.
Few moments later, I hear her moving. Hear her unlock the door, turn the knob, open the door.
She shuffles into the room, looks at me, head tilting, corners of her mouth upturning.
“You,” she shakes her head. “You,” she grins. “You are the most romantic man I know.”
I am? “I am.”
She takes a step toward me, invades my space -- just like in the movies.
We kiss. We get busy.
You are the most romantic man I know.
I think about the street artist who came up with the indelible thought, wrote it down, probably worked to perfect and polish it before he finally deemed it ready. He then printed it out and cut out the words, creating a stencil that he then took to the streets and risked getting arrested in order to paint the piece onto a wall in the middle of a busy intersection where he knew an abundance of the city's residents would be able to scope it. He missed getting caught by a cop by sixty-some seconds.
He did all that, but I’m the most romantic man she knows.
Hmph. Funny how love is.