A month ago, my personal story, My Honey Bottle Valentine, was posted over at West of West. Thought I would post it here as well. Enjoy it if you haven’t already read it!
My Honey Bottle Valentine
My dating history is storied with many first dates of the quietly-watch-a-movie-together-and-then-part-ways-when-the-bus-or-parent-arrives-to-pick-them-up variety. Missed conversations, failed-to-ask questions, and a general lack of self-confidence. I felt like girls were doing me a favour by going out with me, rather than that (heaven forbid) them being with me might actually improve their lives. So, until the age of 24, I had only really ever had one girlfriend. For a month and a half. When I was 17. We kissed once, after wrestling over air-hockey paddles. Then she dumped me over the phone.
I had never had a Valentine’s Day date before. Or a Valentine’s Day girlfriend. But I had given a Valentine’s Day gift. Once. Unintentionally.
(This excludes those Valentine’s Day cards everyone gives out in elementary school to classmates, dreading that their popularity pile will be smaller than everyone else’s popularity pile. But I digress.)
Envision 20-year-old Andrew Wade. Unable to grow anything much in the way of facial hair (and what little there was, was inexplicably blond), he seemingly exclusively owned sets of blue jeans and stacks of geeky t-shirts emblazoned with twenty-sided dice or goopy minibosses. A large backpack turtled him. Bike helmet in hand. Oh, and a repurposed plastic honey bottle in his hand, functioning as his oh-so-hilariously-quirky water bottle.
This was in that far-back time of 2007, an age before plastic water bottles had been denounced from the pulpits as cancerous cannisters seeping toxic chemicals into our bloodstreams. That in mind, the strange thick plastics the honey bottle was made of must still be swimming about inside of me to this day… and that’s without mentioning the disturbing black gunk that would inexplicably accumulate within the hard-to-clean confines of the bright yellow squeeze-top lid. Gunk, I might add, which all the water filtered through every time I took a sip.
So yes, 20-year-old Andrew walks into a writing workshop filled with the usual variety of writing students – poetry naturalists from Saskatchewan, balding twenty-something screenwriters from Vancouver, wine-drinking Saltspring Islanders, refugees from Calgary. Thirteen other students, in all. Including her. Let’s call her ‘Emily’ for the sake of this story.
Honesty time: when I first met Emily, the words that immediately passed through my mind were, ‘awkwardly mannish’. Why? Clearly because I’m an awful, insensitive person. Well, I suppose a person’s only insensitive if they voice such thoughts.
So, I suppose I’m only insensitive now.
Anyway, the question of her gender was legitimately in the air for the first little while after I met her. She was taller than me. Wider-shouldered. But thin. Some muscle to her arms. That ambiguous bangs-y short haircut associated with emo-rockers. And strangely thick eyebrows for a white girl. But when she smiled…
Oh, when she smiled, she was the picture of feminine beauty, mixed with a hint of stubborn vulnerability behind her eyes. I admired her writing. Quirky sense of humour. And the clincher, the one thing that made me know I wanted to become her friend: she drank from a repurposed honey water bottle.
I know. Meant to be, right?
Anyway, we had been in weekly writing workshops together for just over a term, meeting in class for three hours, every Wednesday. We hadn’t really connected or shared a good conversation together, but our classroom discussions were collegial enough. Then, on January 31st (remember the date), she arrived to class in disarray, afluster, unsettled. She’d lost her honey bottle.
In the classroom, Emily apologized for her lateness. In my mind, proud bugles resounded with triumphant, soaring blasts! Banners billowed in great shimmers of sunlight! A knight on horseback raised his sword to meet the brilliant dawn! And I was that knight, because back in my room, carefully packed away, waiting, was my spare honey water bottle. Untouched. No teeth marks or gouges. No black gunk. Just waiting for a chance to replace my current bottle, the moment I decided that the black goop grossed me out too much.
But now it had another purpose. Another life. It had to be hers. Or else what would we have in common, other than a workshop table?
That class, I said nothing, but vowed to surprise her with the bottle the very next time we met. Later that evening, I placed the bottle in my backpack, and waited. Didn’t see her on Thursday. On Friday, I spotted her across the quad on campus, but I was in a rush to get to a class. Didn’t see her on Monday. Or Tuesday. And Tuesday nights inevitably involved a stack of workshop edits that took me through the night. All-nighters were not uncommon.
So, sleep-deprived but academically accomplished with several comprehensively edited works in hand, I made it to class, that next Wednesday. And somehow stayed awake through all three hours. Only to rediscover that bottle in my backpack an hour later. Dagnammit.
Next time, I told myself. The next time I saw her, I’d give it to her, she’d be grateful yet puzzled, and it’d spark a conversation. Maybe we’d grab something to eat. Chat. Like friends do. I hoped?
The next time I saw her was the following Wednesday, the following workshop. Gave it to her just before class began, as people were settling in their seats. No time for a proper conversation beyond a puzzled thank you. And all through class, as other classmates read out scripts from yet others, Emily would occasionally glance over at me with a look that was glad and grateful, but above all else, quizzical, as though I were a strange and peculiar puzzle. Gave me a half-smile.
Which was the reaction I was going for. And I got it. Not the food afterwards, mind. I was still too timid in those days. And it wasn’t until my walk back from class until it hit me. The day. The day was February the 14th. The day when countless millions of men were offering their sweeties flowers or chocolate as expressions of their appreciation, affection, lust, love. On the day of highly marketed love, I gave this woman a repurposed, reused, empty honey water bottle.
And as for the gal and I, well, nothing became of it. Some friendly conversations over the course of a couple of years, and then she moved away to distant climes.
And so, it took a two-week-long accident of timing and twenty years of failed first dates for me to offer even the slightest sign of appreciation to a woman on the day devoted to such acts. All rather sad, really. But a good story. And in the telling of it, hopefully, I’m learning to grow beyond it.
But for all my improved confidence and ambition, I will spend this year’s Valentine’s Day at work. After work, I will order a sandwich to go and rush to a theatre for a cue-to-cue technical rehearsal. And after that, I will head home to the single room office I live in, where I will undress, flick off the buzzing fluorescent overheads, crawl into my small bed, and hope that the world has had a happy, lovely day.
Hope you enjoyed it!
- My Honey Bottle Valentine – at West of West (adewade.wordpress.com)