Okay, so I’ve had the obligatory text message, “Wear something nice, don’t be late. See you there.” Now, I have the usual internal questions, what’s fashionably late these days? Something nice, I get it; not something I’m going to be comfortable in and of course now I’m being informed that I’ve got to make my own way there.
We get settled in our seats the waitress has brought over the drinks. I can’t find anything on the menu that takes my fancy. Chrissey, sat opposite looks like she could be ordering each item as she sits pouting and licking her lips at each menu entry she reads.
‘Perhaps I could choose the wine?’ I proffer.
‘I phoned ahead and ordered a bottle of bubbles to be put on ice.’
Right, maybe I should just sit back and get through this charade. It’s not that I’m against the idea of Valentines, it’s more about the deceit that’s rising above the chitter-chatter in the room. I can almost feel it as I glance around the restaurant. Nine out of ten of the dining-partners are probably branded as useless or non-caring in some shape or form. It could be that they were late, possibly wearing something too comfortable and heaven forbid if they had any involvement in the restaurant or wine choice. The tension is building, slowly the numbers start to deplete as, in turn, there’s a call for the restroom.
Chrissey has made a decision for both of us, that way we can always share. I make my move and join the smoking group all huddled in the freezing temperature of February gathered around a single light bulb under a shelter in the backyard. The conversations are pretty much all on the single theme of, why? As three or four rejoin their respective tables another two or three join the group. I’ve decided I’m going to have a stiff drink at the bar. I do and I’m carrying one back to the table. Just as I’m sitting I see a chair being pushed back, a woman standing, a bit of a muffled exchange of expletives and then them both storming out of the dining room. I sit calmly looking at Chrissey through what is now becoming my gin-soaked vision.
She’s pretty, well dressed and well educated. She has a strong presence and is used to giving orders. Making big decisions and being in control have been her traits since childhood. I was never that interested in power or the struggles that accompany it. We made the promise years ago that we would always make the effort on the 14th of February each year. One reason was that it would be our father’s birthday and secondly, we both enjoy a cynical people-watching experience. It’ll soon be time to start our little game of ‘Table Story’, we each have to choose a table and describe the story of the couple, as we see it. We always end the night in the happy knowledge that neither of us has ever fallen into the trap of a ‘true valentine’.