Every year it’s tradition for Jenny and I to go back to the place where we spent our very first Valentine’s Day together. It’s a little cheesy and sentimental, but that night was a real game changer for us, and one we’ll never forget... even if we tried.
It was about two months after we began dating. It seemed like a short time, but I already knew that Jenny was unlike any other girl I had dated before. I found myself daydreaming at the precinct that maybe I had found “the one”. That’s why I knew I had to plan something extra special for Jenny to show how much she meant to me. I left work early to head back to my apartment to start the preparation for the night. Instead of booking some cliché expensive restaurant, I decided to try my hand at cooking a delectable little chicken dish I discovered while reading Martha Stewart’s magazine. Don’t judge. That woman knows her stuff. Jenny came over promptly at six. I had her come a little early so I could show off my skills in the kitchen, so to speak. Unfortunately, these skills may have been a little rusty, as evidenced by the small fire that broke out. But after I used my handy extinguisher, and explained the smoke to the neighbors, it was finally time to sit down and eat.
My IKEA table was set like a picture out of a magazine with the candles, music, and placemats. We clicked wine glasses and dug in. Minus the charcoal color on the outside of the chicken, it came out pretty good if I do say so myself. I was about to remark on that when I noticed Jenny’s eyes beginning to pop out of her face. I was shocked and flattered how much she was enjoying the chicken. Seconds later I knew my assumption was wrong when Jenny jumped up from the table. Her face was bright red and her breathing sounded like Darth Vader from Return of the Jedi (during the death scene). I reached for the phone, knocked over the wine glasses, shattered the plates, and managed to dial 911.
Minutes later I was riding with Jenny in an ambulance rushing to St. Luke’s Memorial. A paramedic was sticking her with an EpiPen while another was injecting an IV into her arm. Apparently Jenny’s allergy attack was set off by my added splash of peanut sauce in the teriyaki chicken. After six hours in the emergency room, Jenny was finally signed out of the hospital and free to go, with a new bracelet wrapped around her wrist as a gift – a hospital bracelet that is.
On the walk back to my apartment in pouring rain, my stomach growled from lack of food at the same time as Jenny’s. There was a 24-hour diner in front of us and I suggested we grab a late night snack/early breakfast. We ordered our food and sat there in awkward silence, staring at one another. The night's events flashed over and over in my mind, fire, Darth Vader, ambulance. I couldn’t believe how things had gone so wrong. I saw Jenny open her mouth to speak and I knew what was coming... the break up, the end to this relationship, and the hopes of the future I had for us, destroyed. But then... Jenny started to laugh. It was not the “I’m just being polite at a comedy club” laugh, but (I mean this in the best way possible sweetie) a whole Tickle Me Elmo body convulsion. A smile crossed my face and I knew then, we were going to be fine. Our food came, and somehow cold eggs and burnt toast tasted unbelievably delicious. Who knew a diner with three bums asleep in it, a Ted Bundy look alike, and some unknown green slime under the booth across from us could be the most romantic place we’ve ever been to? We walked out of the diner hand in hand and sat on a bench to watch the sun rise over the river.
Our first Valentine’s Day may not have turned out exactly as planned, but even though there were disasters -- a crying clown (I won’t even get into it), an epic fire, and a near death experience -- the part that stands out the most is the moment in the diner when I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with Jenny. That’s why every year on that day, we walk downtown at 5am to that shady little establishment on the edge of the river. We eat some terrible eggs, watch the sunrise … and avoid at all costs, teriyaki chicken.