By David Witter
On this year Valentine’s Day approximately coincided with the Chinese New Year’s celebration in Chinatown. Proud to show off my urban savvy to a girl from Northbrook, our date was set: watch the Chinese New Year’s Parade along Wentworth Avenue, have a great meal in Chinatown and go see a movie.
The parade was spectacular. Dragons, floats and a cavalcade of firecrackers left a trail of shredded paper that blew over the half-melted snow like tumbleweed. We ventured into a rundown storefront restaurant where old Chinese men smoked unfiltered cigarettes, drank coffee and played a Chinese form of dominos. She was a film student at Columbia College, and I knew she would be impressed by the urban scene. It was sure a lot more “real” than the Fuddruckers in Highland Park.
I gathered my limited funds to order a grand meal: a large order of egg fu young, large pork fried rice, Chinese barbeque ribs, moo shu pork and egg rolls. The egg rolls came first and we dispatched them quickly. I thought nothing of it and as the three giant platters heaping with egg fu young patties, pork fried rice and ribs arrived, and went into the bathroom. I took my time washing my hands and grooming myself, hoping that the food and Valentine’s Day aura would pay dividends later. But when I returned I saw the first crack in my plan. Before I left there were six egg fu young patties. One and one-half remained. The ribs lay in a jagged pile of bones, like something out of “The Flintstones.” There was a small serving of fried rice left out of what once had been a heaping platter. Jesus Christ, I was gone for five minutes tops. Did she inhale it?
We ventured in to see a revival of “Pulp Fiction.” Think she was done eating? Hell no. The first thing she got was a barrel of popcorn. As the movie went on, I heard the persistent, “munch, munch, munch” and the ice-rattling, dry-slurping sound from a drained pop. As a film student, I thought she was sophisticated, but I’d guessed wrong. Throughout the movie she would yell out the obvious punch lines and plot twists, usually about five minutes late.
“Oh, the Zed guy is gay! Bruce Willis better watch his ass.” Or, “If Marcellus finds out John Travolta is with his girlfriend, he’s in big trouble.” But the embarrassment was only starting. First, it was belching. Long, loud burps, like the kind 12-year-old boys do to impress their friends. OK, that’s what happens when you gobble food. It serves her right. Then came the <I>other</I> gas.
I detected a slight odor. Maybe the popcorn? Then she began to emit long forays of flatulence—farts that would go on for seconds, emitting sounds like an off-key trumpeter. At first, it was nasty stares from people around us, like the familiar, “sniff, sniff, sniff” followed by giggles. A couple of people began to stir. Then a loud voice blurted out, “Some motherfucker’s blowing farts.”
The film ended, but as she entered my Toyota Corolla wagon, the fart symphony continued. Four hours ago, it seemed like a perfect situation for a conquest, but now all I wanted to do was get her out of the car. Finally, she acknowledged her plight, mumbling something about the stomach flu. I would have felt bad for her but she was the one who turned her fork into a steamshovel.
As I dropped her off, she said something about calling me. I had been dumped before but couldn’t help thinking, “God, I am finally rid of her.” But the nightmare wasn’t over. When I started the car the next day, the odor was embroidered into the upholstery. I took my mom’s dog for a ride and the Golden Retriever furiously dug into the seat, thinking there was some kind of food buried beneath the vinyl. A pine-tree shaped cardboard thing hanging from the mirror seemed to mask it, but only temporarily. On a surprisingly warm seventy-five-degree day in March a couple weeks later, it returned. My roommate entered the car and began the familiar, nostrils flared, nose in the air, “sniff, sniff, sniff.” He looked at me and asked, “Hey Witter, where’s the pizza?”
That was probably my worst Valentines Day. My best? A few years later my girlfriend and I decided to get married in a spontaneous ceremony at City Hall on Valentine’s Day. It was just us, no family or friends. Afterwards we walked to Navy Pier and rode the Ferris Wheel, our first act as man and wife. Since then we have lived happily ever after.