I had to work all evening on Valentine’s Day, which is just as well because I didn’t have a date to take anywhere anyway.
Misery loves company, so I should have been comforted at work knowing my coworkers were the same as I, either loveless or kept from love.
One of them in particular, seemed to be taking the whole night pretty rough, and Jay, we’ll call him that, subjected the rest of us to about eight solid hours of whining, sniveling and muffled sobbing. Finally to shut him up, I said that after work we’d both go to a bar and drink until we forgot what today was. He reluctantly agreed and told me I’d be driving.
When the paper was done, we went to a nearby dive. I kept a slow pace of beer and watched bottles and shots pile up next to him.
“Why doesn’t anyone love me?” Jay asked after a few.
“Because you’re hideous,” I said. “What woman would be caught dead standing next to you, much less be with you?”
“Oh God, it’s true,” he cried. As he buried his head in his arms on the table to weep, I realized he wasn’t in a joking mood.
“Come on. It’s not that bad,” I said, trying to cheer him up. “What about that girl you’re always going on about? The one who works at Whataburger. Bethany?”
“Beatrice,” he said, eyes lighting up. “I’m Dante, and she’s my ticket to paradise.” If nothing else, Jay is a romantic.
“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “I never got out of the inferno. But you see, it’s definitely a sign.”
Jay convinced me to take him there after the bar closed and began plying himself with more liquid courage.
We left his car at the bar, and I took him to the Whataburger, which predictably for 2 a.m. on Saturday night, was packed full of bar rats flushed out on the streets. It looked like chaos could break out at any moment, but the off-duty cop in the corner kept an eye on everything, and all things considered, things were calm.
While we waited in line, Jay pointed out Beatrice for me. She was cute and looked like she was a nice girl. As I started to tell him so, Jay pushed his way through the crowd until he was standing right in front of her at the counter’s break.
He said, “Hello,” and she said, “Hi,” and then he said, “You beautiful thing. You are lovely and wonderful and make me glad to be alive. The world is a better place for you existing than it would be otherwise, and I love you.”
And then it became very quiet, and the girl stayed very quiet, and Jay dropped to one knee, pulled a ring from his pocket and said, “Beatrice, will you marry me?”
The girl, I don’t think she even knew his name, looked back and forth between the ring and his face, shrieked and ran farther back into the kitchen. Jay said, “Wait,” and was helped to his feet by the police officer who had hold of Jay’s collar.
Jay was escorted outside, and I followed them. I explained Jay hadn’t meant any harm, sir, he was just a bit drunk, sir, and I would take him home straight away, please sir. The cop let us off with a warning, thank you sir.
As we went to my car and got inside, I said, “Why in the devil did you propose to that girl?”
“It’s Valentine’s,” he answered as he closed his eyes. He rested his head against the window and smiled. “What else am I supposed to do with an engagement ring?”