Ah, good old Saint Valentine. Patron Saint of being made to feel guilty; Guilty if you actually have a Better Half and have to scramble desperately for some gifts and a nice meal, Guilty if you don't have a hominid of any description that loves you like that, thus hammering home the fact that you have all the sexual allure and attraction of a used condom floating in a Mancunian canal.
Valentine's Day is nonsense. Damned if you Do, and Damned if you Don't, St Val should more accurately be the patron saint of Florists, Restauranteurs and Edible Undies manufacturers.
Plus I have an extra reason for despising Saint Valentine's Day, and that reason I have oft mentioned, but never in detail. She is the Queen Of The Harpies, the overwhelmingly beautiful French woman I barely dated for a pitiful three months, five years ago. And ain't nothin' gonna blind you to the Bleeding Obvious more than Total Beauty.
Her name was - and probably still is - Amira. (Except it's not, I've changed it, but that's not the point.) I had met her at my inept examinations board where I worked as a Temp, a quick-fix job I'd taken as I was finding it impossible to get further work in the Media. I'd met Monkey Dave there too, and it was he who was initially in awe of this stunning vision of womanhood. We would see Amira when we took our frequent cigarette breaks in the smoking compound, but I largely ignored her, leaving Dave to do all the dribbling for me.
For one thing, I'd recently had my fingers ladyburnt and was in no mood to invite more of the same. And of course for another, Amira was riding high in the Premiership, hundreds of points from her nearest gorgeous rival, while I languished happily in the Woolworths Geriatric Sunday League Division. Amira was so eye-catching as to render most men, particularly me and Dave, dumb. (-Er).
And she was something else; Amira had an astonishing head of unruly brown curls, each lock naturally curly and bouncy and framing this gorgeous sweet face. Her skin, as Ricky Martin once pointed out, was the colour of mocha, and she had this little beauty spot on one cheek just to the side of these huge, brown, doe-eyes.
So I ignored her.
What's the point, especially as there wasn't an avalanche's chance at Hell's equator that Amira would be interested in the likes of Me.
Then one day, in the work canteen, I was sitting next a couple of colleagues while Amira sat at the next table. At least I had a nice view whilst complaining about life to the others.
And then something odd happened. Something very very odd, and very, very wonderful. While talking to my friends and occasionally checking to see if Amira was still a goddess, I noticed she'd started playing with a few locks of her curly hair, twisting them round her fingers, and looking in our general direction.
Whatever. Meaningless. I continued to bitch nonchalantly.
And then, as I reigned in my imagination from running anywhere, Amira flashed a large smile right at my head.
And so it began. We would acknowledge each other in the smoking compound after that. A nod at first, then a 'Hello', until eventually we'd chat about nothing in particular. We swapped CDs with each other, we exchanged emails, then we made plans to go catch a French film.
Oh - and this is really odd - by that point we'd already booked a room together in the Cotswolds the following day. I had been careful not to fuck things up by saying or doing anything at all, so all these plans seemed to get booked around us while I retained this attitude of devil-may-care nonchalance.
We hadn't even kissed.
Until the evening before our weekend. We'd just watched the slow, ponderous, then suddenly very shocking La Ville Est Tranquille, where we got over the shock of the film by snogging in an empty corner of a pub afterwards.
The next day, I'd picked her up and driven to a guesthouse in the Cotswolds where we immediately locked ourselves into the bedroom. I still recall that weekend, the astonishment as I walked down streets with this femme fatale only for her to push me into a quiet corner to pounce on my lips with a Gallic passion that made me feel like an ageing shy butler. I remember thiking 'Erm...?' as we walked around an old castle (as you do), where she'd suddenly push me into a quiet dungeon and join me for intense Continental groping. And when we finally got to my kind of territory (of the 'behind closed doors away from the general public' variety), we fucked like leopards.
This. Was. Bliss.
And then it all went hideously bastard wrong.
I can't recall the specifics either. One minute I was grinning and delusionally happy, trying to fathom whether or not I was in four-letter 'L' word with her. The next, I was pretty certain she hated my great-great grandparents for all converging to ultimately bring my existence into this world.
Amira got irritated that she couldn't understand me or my accent. She'd argue that I never listened, and that's why I got what she wanted wrong.
It was like the usual male/ female misunderstandings but with an added linguistic dimension.
One night, sex-wise, I did something for her. Something that seems to go down well with some women. She convulsed, buckled, and rolled onto her side purring. I sidled up to her and put my hand on her shoulder.
She pushed it off.
So, I tried again, thinking perhaps she was still convulsing and that shove was some kind of specific aftershock, but she whipped my hand off again, adding 'Arrêt!' for good measure.
Hmm, that's uncharacteristically selfish. She was now only showing interest when she was hungry, or wanted entertaining. All other times and she was completely indifferent.
The woman was turning into a cat.
Once, when she was moving home, I drove her and her belongings between residences, and did my share (approximately 97%) of lugging boxes about. When the last of the shlepping was done, I went to give her a 'Welcome to your new home' hug. But she seemed confused and repulsed. I wasn't even sweating that much.
Not long after, she requested a break. She had a lot on her mind, and wanted some space. This finally made sense so, although it sucked, I agreed and let her get on with her stuff. We had break-up sex and that was that.
Until a week later when I received a phonecall.
'Can we go out for a meal on Zursday?' Amira said.
'Yeah, if you want. I'll pick you up after work.'
I thought nothing of it, until that morning. Paying scant attention to that morning's news bulletin, I suddenly shat it - It was Saint Valentines! She was after a huge sodding meal!
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
I ran to a florists and bought the only flowers that remained: Orchids. Lost for an actual present, I remember her mentioning she liked Craig David, so I bought his album. I then sped to her flat where she was in a lousy mood from a bad day at work.
I gave her the flowers.
I then gave her the cd.
'Uh, I meant David Gray. Here, you have it. 'Appy Valentines.'
And then we drove to a long high street full of restaurants where we were turned away from every fucking one of them as I hadn't booked.
'That's it', I sighed in resignation. 'There's only one place where we will definitely get a seat tonight: Pizza Hut.'
Pizza Hut. Bad enough on any normal day of the week, an absolute sin to go on the most romantic night of the year™. Rummaging through bins would've been better.
And there, we sat. Amira was now outdoing herself in the spiteful stakes. She'd long been telling me how much she admired young, dark, swarthy Italians - which had always made me wonder why she was seeing a pale, deathly Englishman (morbid curiosity, perhaps) - and, as we sat in virtual silence in a near-empty chain, I could've throttled the God of Irony when an entire family of young, dark swarthy Italians walked in and sat behind us.
Her eyes widened as she launched into her cold invective, whispering to me as she gushed about their looks, then reminding me how badly I'd dressed in comparison.
'Look at you', she spat, 'in zis t-shirt and jeans.'
I sat there dumbfounded. What the hell happened to the girl I was falling for? And why the fuck was she being this cold?
I'm currently reading Motley Crue's autobiography, The Dirt, which is very enjoyable and up there with Proust and Descartes. A replacement singer is writing about the time he was to be replaced, and all the other band members were ganging up on him: "(It was) like a relationship in which your girlfriend knows she wants her freedom, but she doesn't want to hurt your feelings. So instead, she just gets moody, critical, and mean, hoping to drive you away."
And this was exactly Amira's tactic. Except without the qualms about hurting my feelings. The evening went on painfully. We had a stilted conversation where I would look up from my largely unwanted pizza to find her and the Italians eyeballing each other. Eventually, I caught her grinning at someone over my shoulder. I turned round to see three men hastily look the other way.
Fuck this. We're done. She can pay the bill and make her own way home. I'm leaving.
Nah, that's mean. I can't do that.
I paid and drove her home.
She claimed to feel a bit bad.
24 hours later, and the shutters had come down. She never spoke to me again. Ho hum.
So the moral is: Go with your instinct. I sat through that meal and still got shafted. If I had any respect for myself, I'd have walked out and left her with the Italians.
Oh, and St Valentine's is shit.