By Mark Aldrich
It was as if every wish I had made in childhood for a hole in the ground to open up and rescue me had been answered in reverse …
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I bear a scar from the first Valentine’s Day that I had a reason to celebrate as Valentine’s Day, as a part of a couple.
Until the last decade, my romantic history was a long walk alone in an empty field, punctuated by moments in which I interrupted someone else’s walk, attempted to try a relationship, and discovered that I try people’s patience instead. (All the women I have dated are brilliant and accomplished and I was lucky to get to know them; I was stuck at age fifteen for an astonishingly long time, however.)
One Valentine’s Day, the one that hit with warning on February 14, 1989, I was dressed up for the GQ cover that sat only in my mind. For the first time, I was not the friend without a date. I was had started to date someone, a fellow college student. She and I had not yet kissed, and yes that means I was twenty and still a virgin, but yes I had a date, and you know what, why are you math-ing up my life? At any rate, young as I was in both age and maturity, it was probably more important to me that I had a date at all than the woman herself or, even deeper, the concept that this person might have an inner life that I could have an effect on, too.
Sadly, the only part of a GQ look that I could actually afford was a copy of GQ, so the only thing neatly pressed was whatever was beneath that Bible-thick copy of GQ in my backpack.
My ensemble that day consisted of:
The blazer: the only one I owned. A Herringbone, a three-button gray Herringbone from one of the finer Montgomery Ward lines, with one button elegantly worried loose through years of nervousness. It was at least one size too large for me. I worked at a Montgomery Ward, so the price tag was what fit just right, more than the cut.
The pants: black, “dress pants,” creased, because that’s how they came, and even age and use could not uncrease them. The cheaper the pants, the more permanent the crease, I have learned over time.
The tie: I am wearing a tie and isn’t that enough? Despite the fact that it was 1989, it was NOT a piano key necktie.
The shoes: the only dress shoes I had ever owned, which I had by then outgrown, and which no longer had rubber that completely covered their soles. That last part is the only detail we need to know in order to move forward.
These shoes proved to be my outfit’s Achilles’ heel.
In my desire to get my debonair look as nervously “right” as anxiously possible, I wound up late for my classes that February 14, so I drove to school that morning dressed for that night’s Valentine’s date. I arrived in my classroom building just in time for class, strode out of the elevator onto the freshly waxed linoleum, and fell hard. Everything on my person landed in a perfect 360 degrees around me. I did not know I had 360 things on me, but I did. I looked like I had been dropped from a very great height and crashed through the building’s roof and continued down to our second floor elevator bank.
It was as if every wish I had ever made in childhood for a hole in the ground to open up and rescue me had been answered in reverse.
I landed on my mouth. To this day, when I tell this story, I can not demonstrate how it is possible that a slip on my elderly right shoe’s rubber-less heel of all things could pitch me face-forward, but it did. I will spare you the graphic details, but “things” were not right with my “face.” I was not rushed to a hospital or a doctor’s office, a cab was called for me instead by campus security (!) and we drove to a local ER. The leisurely pace in reaction to my wildly injured face still perplexes me. Neither campus security nor my face paid my cab fare, either.
The cab did not wait for me while my face was repaired, so with my lip stitched up—which is a scar that remains to this day on my face—I walked across the highway back to campus, which added a layer of dust to my ensemble. With all this, there was one single thought in my mind: PLEASE do not let me run into anyone I know. I knew that it was a must that I get to my car, which as a commuter student was my dorm room. I MUST clean up my face in my car as best as I can. PLEASE do not let me run into anyone I know, like, oh, I don’t know, say, tonight’s Valentine’s date.
Of course, just as these thoughts were rendered into italics in my mind, the first person I saw on campus—an entire college campus!—was my date.
We had a lovely dinner-and-a-movie evening. Our first kiss remained in the future, for face-related reasons.
Mark Aldrich is a journalist and award-winning humor columnist whose website is TheGadAboutTown.com. He is a writer/performer with the Magnificent Glass Pelican radio comedy improv group, now in its thirtieth season.
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Meghan Jenkins is an actor, comedian, radio personality, musician, model, brand ambassador for Pineapple Clothing, and author of the forthcoming book, The Adventures of Pizza Alien.
Meghan released Panda’s Dance Party, her debut album, in December 2020. It is now available to purchase, download, and stream on every music platform: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes Store, Amazon Music, deezer, Tidal, Pandora, Juno Download.
A social media influencer, in the spring of 2020 her photos of life in quarantine led to an invitation from Maxim magazine to participate in a cover model contest for which readers could submit votes. Her grassroots campaign against professional models brought her to a third-place finish.
In 2018-’19, she was one of the on-air personalities on The Ding Dong Show, recorded each week live with an audience at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood, California.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.