Joel Rosenberg was nervous. His relationship with Mindy Kotel had happened much faster than he would have ever believed. He was in first year University and he met Mindy during orientation week and they’d been inseparable since. The problem Joel had was he didn’t know if he wanted to be in such a serious relationship. University had just started and there were millions of women he wanted to meet and get to know. Mindy on the other hand kept telling him they were soulmates and were meant to be.
In the past Valentine’s Day was not a big deal, but this year Mindy kept telling Joel it was a perfect time to demonstrate their love. He didn’t give it much thought, until the morning of February 14th when Mindy dropped by his room in residence. She knocked on his door at seven am, which did not impress his hungover roommate, and gave him a beautiful card and an incredible gift. It was a gold wristband with his and her name engraved together and the date. He had absolutely nothing for her. ‘’Honey, I’m going to give you your card and your gift later.’’ Mindy clapped her hands together. ‘’Wonderful, you mean when we’re out for dinner at a romantic restaurant?’’ A stunned Joel nodded his head. ‘’Yup that’s what I meant.’’
Joel told Mindy he wanted to take a shower and get dressed. She smiled ‘’I understand, you want to meet at the Oasis for breakfast.’’ He nodded and she looked at her watch. I’ll see you there in about twenty minutes.’’ She then headed out the door. Joel’s roommate Zeke lifted his head off his pillow with one eye shut, ‘’Dude, you are completely pussy whipped. Happy Fuckin Valentine’s Day to you.’’ He then dropped his head back down and was back asleep instantaneously.
When Joel arrived at the Oasis, Mindy started frantically waving. She had reserved a table for them. He sat down and looked at the plates on the table. ‘’I ordered you a toasted raisin bagel with lox and cream cheese. I got you an egg sunny side up, and an orange juice. I know you like coffee but I thought you might be better off with a cup of tea.’’ Before Joel could say anything, Mindy jumped up and grabbed the orders from the cook behind the counter. She did a great job of juggling everything. ‘’Did I miss anything Honey, is there anything else you want?’’ Joel had the word ‘’space’’ race through his brain but he didn’t say anything. ‘’This is great Mindy, thank you so much.’’ She brushed his comment off. ‘’You always go the extra mile for the one you love. Someday we’ll tell our kids about this.’’ Joel felt like he was throwing up in his mouth. He was nineteen, he wanted to party, he wasn’t ready for what was happening.
‘’What’s your schedule today?’’ Joel had to think about things. ‘’I have a lecture on Satellites and Direct Broadcasting at Nine, I think I have Intro Philosophy at Ten Thirty, and then I have Mass Communications at one. I finish off with Film Studies at two. I should be back in residence around four thirty.’’ Mindy looked at him earnestly ‘’What time are our reservations for dinner and where are we going. I can’t wait to spend a romantic evening with you. I hope your planning to come back to my Apartment after dinner.’’ Joel was lost in thought, where the hell was he going to take her for dinner. ‘’Yeah, Yeah, I really want to come back to your place. Uh, dinner is set for eight.’’ Mindy took his hand and put it in hers. ‘’Where Joel, where are we going for dinner.’’ Joel almost blurted out McDonalds but that would have been cruel. ‘’It’s a big surprise.’’ She stood up ‘’I have to get to my lecture on Bio-Physics. I guess I’ll see you at my place around seven, does that work? Joel shook his head. She grabbed some plates, put them on the racks for dirty dishes that was by the exit and headed out. Joel sat by himself and asked himself if he really was whipped.
The morning was extremely slow and it donned on Joel while listening to Professor Leon Wrezinki discuss Ayn Rand that he needed to make reservations for dinner. He decided to skip the rest of the lectures and film studies and plan a nice Valentine’s Day night for Mindy, she had bought him a gorgeous gold wrist band, it was the least he could do.
Back in his room he called ten restaurants and not one had a table for two available for eight. One Hostess told him they had been booked for months, and Valentine’s Day was one of the biggest events of the year. He was offered earlier times and much later times, but nothing that would work. He finally gave up and booked a table at The Hermitage Hotel, which had a prix fix menu. He was able to get a time at seven thirty. The problem was drinks and dessert were extra. The cost per person was two hundred dollars, which meant he would be paying four hundred dollars for dinner. That would mean no extracurricular activities or eating out for a month. He was basically blowing his budget.
The next step was a card. He walked to a mall near campus and most of the good cards at the Hallmark Card store were sold out. The only ones left were super mushy but he had no choice. He grabbed one and paid, and next and last he looked for a gift. At Birk’s Jewelers he found a pendent in the shape of a heart. It was nice and innocuous. He thought she’d like it and had his initials and hers engraved in the back with the date. It cost him another eighty dollars, things were getting more and more expensive.
Once he was back in his room, he called Mindy’s apartment and left a message that he’d be picking her up at seven as their reservations at the Hermitage Hotel were for seven thirty.
Joel put on a good suit and wrapped the pendent. He signed the card, and felt ready to go. Mindy was waiting in the lobby and looked great. She got in the car and looked at Joel. ‘’You look fantastic. I am so thrilled to be with you tonight, this is my dream coming true.’’
At the Hermitage they gave the valet the car and he gave them a claim’s ticket. They walked into the hotel and were transported into another world. Elegance was on display everywhere.
They held hands as they strolled over to the restaurant and Joel gave his name. The Hostess checked the list and led them to a table beside the door to the kitchen. Joel mentioned that he wasn’t crazy about the table and the Hostess just looked at him. ‘’I’m sorry Sir, but we are completely booked. The tables are assigned as reservations are made in a random fashion. This is the table we gave you. If you want to give it up and come back at nine thirty we can give you a different table.’’ Joel was getting more upset by the minute. He was paying a premium price and didn’t need the door swinging in his face every second. He was just about to ask for the Manager when Mindy interrupted. ‘’You’ll have to excuse my boyfriend, he has a tendency to get over reactive, this table is fine. I would like a glass of Chardonnay please.’’ Joel wanted to scream, the wine was not part of the price of the dinner and he was already laying out serious money. The Hostess looked at him with a smirk on her face ‘’What do you want to drink?’’ He said water and she once again looked at him in a bemused way. ‘’Flat or Fizzy’’ ‘’Flat please.’’ The Hostess nodded and walked away.
‘’Honey we are at the Hermitage. You made reservations here, I don’t care if we sat on the roof, I’m really excited to be here. Happy Valentine’s Day’’ Mindy leaned across the table and gave him a kiss.
Joel watched people coming in to the restaurant and told himself to relax. How much could a glass of wine cost. When the waiter arrived at the table he had the wine and a pitcher of water. ‘’Hello my name is Alfred and I’ll be your server tonight. I will bring you your starters, I just wanted to see if you needed anything else.’’ Mindy thanked him and he walked away.
The appetizers were so small that Joel wanted to borrow a magnifying glass to see what he was eating. Mindy seemed delighted and that was the purpose of the night, so he couldn’t complain. She smiled at him as she was finishing her bruschetta. ‘’Do you mind if I look at that wristband I bought you. I thought it was so elegant.’’ As Joel reached his arm across the table, Alfred returned with the main course. Joel thought it was a little quick and wanted to yell that he wasn’t at a fast food restaurant, but he didn’t want to make a scene. Mindy looking at his wrist was also a reminder to give her the Valentine’s gift he had in his pocket. He was handing it to her just as Alfred put down his Pasta Primavera.
Mindy slowly opened the poorly wrapped box and shrieked with pleasure. ‘’Oh darling, I love it, I love you, this is the best engagement gift I could have ever dreamed of.’’ Joel almost choked on a piece of pasta. What the hell was she talking about. ‘’I love the initials on the back and the date, my family is going to freak out over this.’’ Joel had a bad feeling, and remembered the card. He hesitated before pulling it out of his suit jacket and handing it to her. Mindy read the card and started to sob. ‘’Oh darling, I knew I loved you, but I never knew how much you loved me till tonight. Oh I can’t wait to start planning our marriage.’’ Joel was having that bad deja vu feeling again. He didn’t know what to do so he remained silent as he picked at his pasta. He thought it could have been hotter and was going to get Alfred to take it back, when he rethought the idea. Maybe it was better to eat and get the night over with. Mindy was acting like he had proposed and he was feeling very uncomfortable.
Mindy talked through the entire dinner and he was selectively tuning her out, but there were some words that floated into his consciousness. Honeymoon, Family Business and Children.
Joel looked around the restaurant and most people were slowly enjoying their appetizers while Alfred was always coming over to the table and asking them if there was anything he could get for them after the main course. Mindy kept suggesting she wanted more, and Joel wanted to somehow signal her not to order but how could he?
Joel glanced down at his watch and it was seven fifty. They had been there twenty minutes and had finished their appetizers and main course. It certainly wasn’t leisurely dining and for the price, it should have been so much nicer. Mindy was in seventh heaven, but Joel was now just considering her crazy.
The ever obliging Alfred brought over a dessert menu. Mindy looked at if for a half second and ordered a slice of Tiarmisu Cake and a Cappuccino. Joel requested a cup of hot water and both Alfred and Mindy gave him a strange look.
Sticking to the script, the slice of cake was brought over immediately, followed by the cappuccino and a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon. Before Mindy was finished taking the second bite, Alfred brought over the bill and handed it to Joel. ‘’The tip has already been calculated for you because it’s a special menu. Thank You in advance for my tip, I will be back to collect in a few minutes.’’
Joel tried to play it cool as he looked at the bill, but he wanted to scream. The meal had cost four hundred dollars, the wine cost forty, the slice of cake was twenty five, the cappuccino was eight dollars. The total for the dinner before the tip was four hundred and seventy three dollars, the tip was ninety five dollars. That meant the meal had cost him five hundred and sixty eight dollars. Joel could feel his heart racing as he handed his credit card to a hovering Alfred. It was the most expensive meal he had ever endured. He sat and thought about things as Mindy was talking to him. He had completely tuned her out and was thinking about the costs for the pendent and card. It was close to another hundred dollars. In total he had spent almost seven hundred dollars on his girlfriend. It had been a Valentine’s Day massacre.
As they walked towards the valet stand it struck Joel that he still had to pay for the Valet parking and the tip. It was twenty dollars for the Valet and he gave the driver a five dollar tip. Joel was seriously tapped out.
Mindy never stopped talking in the car, Joel just said ‘’Uh Huh, Uh Huh’’ and she kept going. When they arrived at her apartment, Mindy insisted that he come up. Joel was wiped out and not in the mood, but maybe something fantastic would happen. They had been going out for a month, and maybe tonight was the night they would make love.
After finding a spot in guest parking they went up to the ninth floor and her apartment which was number nine seventy two. When they walked in, Joel felt a shudder run though his body. There were two people sitting on the couch watching television. The man turned off the sound and stood up. ‘’So you must be Joely, my little angel’s boyfriend. I’ve heard a lot about you, welcome to the family, you can call me Sid.’’ The woman came over and introduced herself as Bailah. ‘’Mindy says you are the Best and we are excited about our family growing. Tell us Joel, when can we meet your folks?’’ Before he could answer Sid interrupted. ‘’Joel, I just want you to know, Mindy has already arranged for you to have a management position in my company. I don’t know if she told you, but we are the largest manufacturer of portable toilets in North America and we’re working on some new models. Why don’t we sit down at the table and the girls can make us some coffee and I’ll give you more details.’’
It was at that exact moment that Joel thought his head was going to explode off his shoulders. ‘’Mr. & Mrs. Kotel, it is a real pleasure to meet you both. I uh have to leave, I just wanted to make sure Mindy got into the apartment safely. It was a nice night and Mindy’s great. I uh have a lot of early classes tomorrow and I just have to take off.’’ Mindy had a disturbed look on her face. ‘’Joel, my Mom made her famous apple cake for us, I think you should have a piece before you go. They flew in just to meet you.’’ It wasn’t the time or place to argue but Joel knew he had to exit stage left or he would need to be lobotomized. ‘’Right, I don’t want to be rude, but I need to rain check. Ciao Ciao Kotel family.’’
Mindy looked at her parents and at Joel who was half way through the door. He was almost at the elevators when she caught up with him. ‘’If you love me you’ll go back to the apartment. You are really embarrassing me. My Dad was ready to talk with you about new toilet designs, he doesn’t just do that with anybody. If you want to have a relationship with me, you better go and apologize to my parents for being rude and eat some of my Mothers Apple Cake. You can do that for me right honey, or else I think we may have some problems.’’
Joel thought about things and knew it was either make a stand now or never. ‘’Mindy, you’re a wonderful girl and I think you are beyond special. We have really rushed things since we met, so I think maybe we should have a cooling off period. I’m not saying we won’t get back together, but maybe we both should take a break to keep things in perspective. I will like the Valentine’s card said always love you, but we are young and there’s still so much living to do before we settle down. I hope you understand. We can revisit our future in a few months and if we still feel this strongly about each other, we can start dating again. What do you think?’’ Mindy glared at him ‘’I gave you some of the best months of my life, and this is how it’s going to end. Go Fuck yourself.’’ With that Mindy started down the hall, then she stopped and snarled. ‘’The wristband I gave you is real, you gave me a gold plated piece of shit and who orders flat water instead of fizzy water in a restaurant?’’ The elevator arrived just in time and Joel jumped in. He heard Mindy’s apartment door slam shut and heard her scream ‘’You were right, he was an Asshole’’ just as the elevator doors closed.
Over the next few weeks Joel didn’t see Mindy at all. He missed her in many respects but he knew he had made the right decision. He started to attend floor parties and get into the social scene. It was fun and it felt good being just a University student and not worrying about serious life decisions.
Joel was missing a book for his Mass Communications class so he walked into the bookstore and smack dab into Mindy and a guy she was holding hands with. Mindy looked at him. ‘’Mark, this is Joel, you know the guy I told you about. Joel this is Mark. We met shortly after you and I broke up and we hit it off big time, in fact look at my rock. Mindy placed her hand and an engagement ring about two inches from Joel’s nose. We are planning to get married this summer. I can’t tell you how much we have in common. It’s too bad things didn’t work out for us but there’s a reason for everything. Mark liked hearing about my Dad’s new toilets and he loved my Mom’s Apple Cake. What about you? Have you met anybody?’’ It was awkward, Mark was staring at him and Mindy, his head and eyes were going back and forth. ‘’Nope, nobody, you’re a tough act to follow Mindy. I wish you both all the happiness in the world. Nice to see you and I wish you a long life together.’’ Mindy smiled ‘’Thanks Joel. Take Care.’’ Mark nodded and they left the bookstore. Joel found it all super strange. The entire time they were talking he noticed that Mindy was wearing the heart he had given her with their initials and date inscribed. For a gold plated piece of shit she was still wearing it. As he looked for his book he kept thinking one thought, he was still wearing the gold wristband every day. He took a deep breath and wondered how long it would be before he and Mindy started going out again.