Love Hurts. A Valentine’s Day Story


Note: This piece was originally published in the Greeley Tribune in February of 2014.

Up until I met my wife, I remember disliking Valentine‘s Day quite a bit. It always seemed so contrived and uncomfortable, not just in my adult life but going all the way back to my elementary school days.

While I suppose I did enjoy sitting at my desk back then, cutting hearts out of construction paper and pasting them to shoe-boxes, the idea of every student exchanging cheap, fold-over cards with a single-line message just struck me as weird. There didn’t seem to be an ounce of sincere though put into it.

This was frustrating for me because I knew that the card I would assuredly receive from the girl I had a crush on (there was one every year) wouldn’t actually mean anything. And in case I wasn’t sure about that, each of these girls would reliably and inexplicably spell my name wrong on the cards they gave me. I never quite understood that. Sure, there are two ways to spell my first name, and thus a 50/50 chance of getting it right under normal conditions, but every student’s name (with the correct spelling) was sent home with the kids beforehand.

At least none of them spelled it “Jhon” which is what my best friend inexplicably did – not just in elementary school, but also in junior high, high school, and college (when we were roommates for a few years). Yes, a person who spells John with the ‘h’ before the ‘o’ actually did somehow manage to graduate from college.

Anyway, Valentine‘s Day in my teens and twenties wasn’t so great either. This was primarily because I never seemed to have a girlfriend on February 14th. February was always a tough romance month for me – and in all honesty, so were the other 11 months of the year. Thus, a national holiday designed to rub the gleefulness of happy couples in the faces of the terminally-single wasn’t exactly looked upon favorably by me.

That all changed, of course, once I met my wife. On perhaps our second or third Valentine‘s together, I actually remember thinking to myself, “You know, Valentine‘s Day isn’t such a bad holiday after all.” This thought came about as we were driving home from our date after a really nice dinner at a restaurant.

Minutes later, we pulled up to a red-light at a Greeley intersection. As the two of us were sitting in the car chatting and waiting for the light to turn green, I noticed the driver in the jeep next to me exit his automobile and run out into the intersection.

At first I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but soon realized that he was coming to the aid of a woman across the street whose car had stalled. She was alone, and her car (which was in the oncoming lane) was smack dab in the middle of the intersection. She was standing outside her opened driver-side door and was pushing her car with all of her might but was getting nowhere. Her intent was to turn in front of us and head down the converging street while she still had the green arrow. That street had a bit of a downward slope to it, so her plan seemed to be to coast her car down it where she could then turn into a nearby parking lot.

Thoughts of me being alone on Valentine‘s Day years earlier surfaced in my head, so I was sympathetic to this woman. I placed my car in park, told my wife I’d be right back, and jogged out into the intersection to help them. The woman kept her hand on the steering wheel while I helped the other man, from the back of the car, push it forward.

We quickly and successfully shoved her automobile out of the intersection just as her green arrow turned yellow. I was feeling pretty good about myself as I returned to my car, exchanging gratifying head-nods with the other man who slid back inside his jeep. The light turned green, and the man beside me sped off on his way without a care in the world. I didn’t, however, because I was distracted by my wife yelling, “Oh God,” over and over again.

I turned and watched with wide eyes as the woman’s car coasted down the side-street…without her in it. She had never climbed back inside, and was now chasing after the car on foot, yelling and screaming. It picked up speed and began veering into the sidewalk. It soon jumped the curb and entered the parking lot where, seconds later, it crashed head-on into a parked catering truck that belonged to a nearby restaurant.

My mouth was left gaping, as was my wife’s. I think I was somewhat in shock, because when the cars behind me (whose drivers apparently hadn’t noticed the action) began honking at me to drive forward, I did.

Happy Valentine‘s Day, lady!

As I drove away, I watched the woman throw her hands in the air and yell at the sky. My wife and I sat in silence as I continued driving.

Regrettably, my next reaction was denial. I began questioning how much of the incident was actually my fault. I couldn’t fathom why the woman hadn’t climbed back into her car once its momentum started building, and part of me wanted to blame her for what had happened. I tried to convince myself that the same outcome would have occurred from letting the other man push her car all by himself. Maybe it would have. Maybe it wouldn’t have. Regardless, my ugly sense of self-preservation was soon chipped away at by my conscience, and I looked for the next side-street to turn down.

To my astonishment, the police had already arrived by the time we got back to the parking lot. The woman was standing beside the police car, her hand shaking as she nervously puffed on a cigarette. I stepped out of my car and approached to them, wondering if I should drop to my knees and hold out my wrists for the policeman to slap a pair of handcuffs on me.

Luckily, I didn’t end up in the slammer that night – which could have been a particularly dangerous place to be on Valentine‘s Day. All involved parties understood that the accident was the result of good intentions. The insurance companies would sort out the rest.

“In all my years on the job, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of a car being pushed into a collision,” the policeman told me through his own laughter. I was glad I could at least bring some amusement to his Valentine‘s Day.

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