We have been together for a year and three months, and this was our second Valentine’s evening.
We ate at Monsoon on 3rd Street Promenade and went to see Pan’s Labyrinth afterwards. My friend Jeremy had recommended the movie; said it was really cool and visually stunning. We talked about nothing over dinner. The tension was there. I knew what she wanted: a proposal, a ring; but I just didn’t feel ready yet. I wanted to have a good time, a nice meal, some good sex and definitely no arguments or drama. I also wanted to please her, but I’m always afraid it isn’t going to be good enough, and then I kind of get myself worked into a tizzy with anxiety, and then time is up and I didn’t really prepare anything. I grabbed a rose at a stand on my way home, and a card which I quickly filled with something about roses symbolizing love and being as beautiful as she, and that I love her for always having my back. I quickly sent her a text, writing how much I looked forward to our evening together. We are to meet at my pad in Santa Monica to change and then go out to dinner.
We get to the restaurant and I give her the rose and the card right after we are seated. She smells the rose and opens the card to read it. I’m sure she’ll love it, I’m really proud of what I wrote. She smiles and says that’s nice. That’s it. Nothing else.
She starts talking about poetry and how she loves carefully planned, well-thought-out romance. Her ex was a poet. She doesn’t mention that now, but I remember it anyway. Now I don’t feel so sure about what I wrote after all. I would have liked a little more of a reaction from her when she read the card. Maybe she’s comparing my writing to her ex’s.
She was indeed digesting his writing. She really tried not to, but couldn’t help noticing the spelling mistakes and the incorrect grammar. She thought his English was equivalent to a third-grader’s: not particularly clear, poetic, crisp, or melodic, just a sentimental statement about how much she meant to him.
Their appetizer had arrived and she chewed slowly as she swallowed her disappointment. She really wanted an engagement ring. He had given her a ring for their one-year anniversary three months earlier, but had refused to give it any significance, like calling it a promise ring or something, to meet her emotional needs. She still had not forgiven him for that even though she was wearing the ring tonight.
It would be another tumultuous year before he actually asked her to marry him. By then she had lost respect for him, and had fallen out of love with him for long enough that there was no point considering it, except that it would have been crueler than she was capable of to say no right there in the restaurant in front of all.
She secretly loved the satisfaction of rejecting him. She wondered if that made her a mean woman. She felt he deserved it for taking so long and for being inconsiderate of her feelings and needs along the way.
She also treated him badly towards the end of the relationship, and she truly didn’t understand why he would want to marry her, which just further decreased her already-waning respect.
After dinner we went to see Pan’s Labyrinth. I hated that movie, it started fairytale-like, but with a dark undertone which slowly evolved into a visual violence beyond what I dare imagine, and a cruelty rarely encountered, all revealed against a bizarre backdrop of a dark fairytale and the Spanish civil war.
It was awful, awful; hideous, and half way through the movie I was practically cowering under my seat, my entire body so tense it was about to explode. I had no defense against the images coming at me from the screen. Covering my eyes only magnified the screams of torture victims and the seemingly endless ugly evil of the movie.
John leaned over to me and said we could leave if I wasn’t enjoying the movie. I started crying. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could just get up and leave. Somehow I had felt obligated to sit this horrible movie out like a good girl in school who been told to stay in her seat. He took my hand and we got up and left the dark movie theatre.
I had been having panic attacks, but wasn’t yet aware of what they were. One was about to hit full force any second. My body was tense in every fiber. My heart felt like it was going to pound right out of my chest. My temples were thumping. My mouth went dry. My hands and feet were cold and numb and tingly. I was gasping for air like somebody coming up to the surface–almost gagging. I was crying. I was shaking. I was wondering if I was having a heart attack. My hearing was underwater: “Womb womb blub blub blub…”
John apologized for his bad movie selection. “Jeremy said it was great I’m so sorry I had no…” all I heard was, “Womb womb blub blub blub….”
I lost my temper. I screamed at the top of my lungs at him: how could you pick a movie like that when you know perfectly well I can’t handle watching anything with explicit violence or suspense or painful love stories or cruelty to animals or small children or social injustice or tearjerkers or romantic comedies? I had become too sensitive to watch movies. I yelled and screamed and cried like a pack of hyenas howling in the night.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Braveheart had just been released. I went to see it. The relentless violence had me cowering under my seat holding my pregnant belly. I was quite shaken after the experience, but I didn’t get mad at anybody. At least not that I remember.
John suggested we go back to my house in Topanga. He was supposed to spend the night. I wanted to hurt him, hit and beat him.
We went to bed. In spite of my complete exhaustion I wanted, needed, to have the commitment conversation one more time…