Last night I watched a movie about a girl transported back in time to relive the most romantic Valentine’s Day in her past. On her trip down the memory lane, she arrived home to a candlelit dinner prepared by her handsome chef boyfriend. Between the entrée and the dessert, he went down on one knee, produced an antique diamond ring that used to belong to his grandmother, and begged her to marry him.
The reality detector in my head went off so loud I risked having my eardrums burst. It just doesn’t happen, does it? Men don’t prepare romantic dinners. And anyway, if he was a chef, surely he would have to work on Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest nights of the year in the restaurant trade? And why did he have Grandma’s diamond ring? Was his mother dead? Didn’t he have any sisters, because those sure as hell would have claimed the first right to a family heirloom?
On and on I debated in my head, trying to convince myself that the scene was too unrealistic to ever happen. Surely, most men were like mine - not a romantic bone in their bodies. My BF normally forgets the special significance attached to the date February 14.
Watching the movie sent me down my own memory lane, to recall my most romantic Valentine’s Day. And you know what? It was a day when I didn’t have a date.
That year, Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, and I was on a long business trip to Philadelphia, staying at the lovely Four Seasons. I expected to grab a bite to eat at the Swann Café on the ground floor, and then watch TV in my room. I called the restaurant at midday to make a reservation.
I was told there was nothing. The entire Café, and the adjoining Lounge, would serve special dinner, only tables for two, sold as part of a romantic weekend break, and room service would not operate that night. I’d have to starve, or go out to pick up something from a deli. At my disappointed protest, the man on the phone invited me to go down at the start of the evening and see what they could do.
Dressed in my velvet evening trousers, a ruffled silk shirt and a gold belt, I wandered down around six pm, to find that the restaurant had squeezed in an extra table for one. Around me, couples in evening clothes talked in muted voices, and a quartet played soft music. As the only lone diner, I was greeted with friendly smiles, and the waiters fussed over me.
When the dinner was over and the band switched to dance tunes, I migrated to the bar at the edge of the vast Lounge. A beautiful lady in her sixties struck up a conversation with me while her husband ordered drinks. Another couple joined us, trading memories of past Valentine’s celebrations at the Four Seasons.
A little later, a handsome young man in jeans and an open-necked white shirt walked up to the bar. Something familiar about him caught my attention. When he noticed my curious look, he introduced himself, and explained we worked for the same company. He too was stranded at the hotel over the weekend. He had arranged to meet up with friends at the bar and would head out to a nightclub on the waterfront.
He asked me what level of seniority I was at work. I told him, and he admitted I outranked him by several grades. He asked me how old I was. I told him, and he confessed he was my junior by almost ten years. But when his three friends arrived, he sent them off ahead, and remained at the bar. With a twinkle in his eye, he proceeded to flirt with me, and charm the elderly couples around us. Two hours later, I returned to my room, and he departed to join his friends at the nightclub.
Now, fifteen years later, both of us still work for the same company. We’ve never come face to face since, and I’m sure this young man never realised what a gift he had given to me, making me feel attractive and special on Valentine’s Day.
Of any February 14, that day and the kindness of strangers shines the brightest in my memory.
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