One of the many NYC nightlife newsletters in my inbox today reminded me that we have one month until Valentine's Day.
In the past, it has been a deadline I would pay close attention to, maketing the cutoff point past which I am sure not to have a date for Valentine's Day, if I don't have one already.
During MLK Jr. weekend 2001, I met a sweet, drunk Irish construction worker at Stromboli Pizza, kitty corner from Tribe. I was eating a slice inside, and Brian had walked by, seen me in the window, and come inside to meet me. I was freezing, having left my winter coat on my Tribe barstool to save my seat while I bolted across the street for a slice, hoping it would absorb the concoctions in my stomach.
Brian was short, cute, stubbly, with a squinty smile, and liked me. I dragged him back to Tribe and canoodled with him for a while in the bar before taking a cab all the way to deep Queens (Maspeth) with him. We spent the night together but mostly slept, and it was nice. I was wearing a new bra. He noticed.
For the next three weeks, I tried to find the best way to get to Maspeth without a taxi. I took the 7 train to Woodside and walked, which was too far and a big mistake. I took the 7 train and then a gypsy cab from the Woodside station, but I couldn't afford to keep that up long-term. I finally started to navigate my way through upper Brooklyn and Queens on the Queens bus system, spending 45 minutes, maybe an hour and a half, winding my way across the border in a route that driving directly would have taken a mere 15 minutes.
For his construction jobs, Brian usually got up at the crack of dawn, worked hard with his rough hands, and got out earlier than most office workers, so he'd go straight to the pub. I think he was drunk most of the time we spent together.
Three weeks later, Valentine's Day came and went. No mention from him. No utterance from me, but it was on my mind. I wasn't seeing anybody else. Neither was he. But it was still too soon for Valentine's Day.
We still saw each other after that, but things never progressed. To be honest, my feelings were hurt, and I started to get really annoyed when his hangovers (or morning drunkenness) increasingly made him late or not show up at all.
That was the only time I ever had any chance of having a date on Valentine's Day. And it wasn't chance enough.
In the years since then, I've boozed my way through the night, trying to forget I'm alone, trying not to be alone. Last year, I broke the cycle and went to Joshua Tree for Valentine's Day. I spent the day taking a sound bath at the Integratron, walking around the Date Festival in Indio, and walking easily through nature. I spent the night drinking red wine, eating chocolate, and writing on my laptop. I was drunk and alone, and happy.
I think it was the next day that my hosts at The Desert Lily mentioned their artist residency, and wondered whether I might want to come back in the summer. I did. Since then, The Desert Lily has changed me and my life for sure, but how much has not been fully revealed yet.
This year, I took my cue from last and booked another trip: to Tunisia. On Valentine's Day 2010, I will be returning from a nine-day excursion to a small country that's precariously situated between North Africa and the Middle East, with landscapes that have inspired the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and George Lucas. I suspect my mind will be in another place when I return to JFK on Valentine's night, but just in case it's not, I get back just early enough to squeeze a little bit of romance out of the evening...
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