It was the fifth grade and I was “going with” a girl named Amy. My pre-teen gawkiness was at its peak that year because my old elementary school had merged with a new one. The transition to new surroundings, combined with my awkward insecurities, made for a rough time. We now had two of everything—double the number of popular kids, jocks, troublemakers and of course, nerds. I had been hovering near the bottom of my old school’s social hierarchy and was finding myself slipping even lower in this new one.
Despite my social stature, I had managed to meet a girl. At the tender age of 10, Amy was cunning enough to know that she had me wrapped around her finger, and she seemed to relish wielding her power over me. Amy would agree to go with me only to unceremoniously dump me a few days later. The next day she would take me back and the cycle continued. One night we would spend the evening talking on the phone (which was probably only about 15 minutes, but at the time it seemed like the whole night), and the next day she would totally ignore me. Of course, this only made me crazier about her. I had already made a habit of crushing on girls who were completely uninterested in me. Amy was the first girl to like me back, even though for the most part she didn’t treat me very well.
Valentine’s Day was approaching and Amy and I were in a good place. We had been together for almost two weeks without her breaking up with me, so I was feeling really good about our relationship. Notes were passed. Stickers were traded. Hands were tentatively held for brief, but shining moments. Based on our tenuous past, I knew that I had to make a big splash for Valentine’s Day. I bought her a card that was sweet, but didn’t scream “desperate”, and a box of colored pencils.
That afternoon the phone rang. Before the words were even spoken, I could tell it was coming. I had learned to recognize the tone on her voice. She broke up with me…again. But this time it was permanent.
I went through what I would later learn was the normal range of emotions after a painful dumping. I was hurt, but I was also angry. I mean, come on, couldn't she have waited just one more day? If she had only seen the effort I put into her Valentine's Day gift, she might have changed her mind. I spent the rest of the day wallowing in the "what ifs".
There were no great lessons to be learned from this, except for the obvious fact that heartbreak hurts. It hurts even more on Valentine’s Day. It would be a long time before I realized that bad times make the good times better—sweet doesn’t exist without sour. Every so often on Valentine’s Day, as WonderWife™ and I uphold our tradition of eating fried chicken with a really good bottle of wine, I think about how Amy broke my heart so long ago, and I wonder if today is just a little bit better because of that.