Lucky at Cards: A Tale of Valentine Woe
by Kerry McCluskey

Heartbreak number one. When I was 14 years old, I was in love with a 17-year old man named Jeff. He was the broiler cook at Ponderosa. I was the salad bar girl. For Valentineís Day that year, I thought it would be romantic if I baked Jeff a heart-shaped cake. Every ounce of my feminine adolescence pulsed with the knowledge that I was on the right track. I was heterosexual and I was following in the dainty footsteps of my foremothers. I gathered all of my ingredients together on the counter. I knew it would be a cinch. You see, I had been baking for years by that point and I knew the ways of the oven and the electric beaters. Or, so I thought. I donít know exactly where I went wrong. I just knew by my motherís peals of laughter that the finished product looked more like an aorta than the traditionally shaped heart of Valentineís Day. All to happy too guide her daughter in such pursuits, mommy dearest helped me start again and by the time Jeff got there, I could tell by the love pouring from his cow-like brown eyes that I had indeed, succeeded in my endeavour. I knew what it was to be a woman.

When I was 18-years old, I became involved with another womanís boyfriend. By the time Valentineís Day rolled around, their relationship had ended. I was ecstatic. I bought flowers and candy and took my happy, horny self over to his house. As I walked in the door, a feeling of dread, similar to what car-crash survivors feel as the tire blows, hit me. It was over. He dumped me. Heartbreak number two.

Many more Valentineís Days passed as I graduated from high school, went on to university and began a career as an aspiring waitress and writer. I also came out as a lesbian and moved north.

By the time I was 26, I was well into my second relationship with a woman. I was a pro at cunnilingus and I was hopelessly in love with a prison guard who drove a silver Trans-Am. She was just about the biggest bull dyke North of 60. Not usually my type of woman - note: I said a prison guard who drove a silver Trans-Am - I packed away my logic, my intelligence and my common sense. During our first Valentineís Day together, we made each other heart-shaped pizza - an idea each of us came up with independent of the other. That kind of coincidence, I knew, meant we were to be together forever.

On our second Valentineís Day together, things had begun to sour. I had fallen in love with another woman (she had the eyes of a cat), but I was trying to save my relationship with the prison guard. In the name of honesty and all things sacred, I told her of my feelings for the other woman. I hoped we could work through it and that our union would become stronger. Given that she was, and likely remains to be, the most vindictive, punitive soul on the face of planet earth, she chose the route of the revenge fuck.

She chose my boss.

They chose cocaine.

The prison guard, whom I had fallen in love with almost two years before, stumbled home early on Valentineís morning, 1996, coked to the hilt, smelling of cunt and alcohol. I told my therapist later that day (I was in therapy because I thought something was wrong with me) about the morningís events. She asked me if my partner was having an affair. I became indignant. I said no. Denial, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, is more than just a river in Egypt. It took me three more months to admit to myself that she was, in fact, sampling my boss. I screwed up my courage. I ended the relationship.

The heavens rewarded me for my decision and I spent the next three years deeply in love with Meg. The bad news is that while I thought Iíd found my soul mate, the person whom I would love, honour and respect until death do us part, she stopped returning my affections. She too, dumped me.

At the age of 31, my heart stitched together with fishing twine, I left Sappho and the world of love that dare not speak its name and I came out the other side of the closet door - much to the surprise of my family and friends. I began to date a man. I would come to love him more than I would love my self-respect.

I met that short, little man at a bar and the first time he came home with me, he stayed for three days. The sex was fantastic and the relationship was good for a while. But, as Valentineís Day approached, I was steeped in anxiety. I knew my track record. I knew fate was in the kitchen with Dinah, cooking up some sort of heart-wrenching trauma. Gods be damned, I exclaimed, in a voice feeble with dread. Let me have just one decent Valentineís Day celebration. Knowing better, I thumbed my nose at the fates and decided to go all out. I covered his bed in chocolates wrapped in red foil. I sprinkled his pillows with tiny silver and red hearts. I lit 20 candles and placed them around his room. I was so full of love for that short, little man that as I dressed for dinner, I decided to forego underwear. The ultimate dessert, I thought. I made a five-course meal and as I hand-fed him brie and strawberries, the love poured from his cow-like brown eyes. I knew no one had ever done such a thing for him. I knew no one had ever loved him like I did. I knew I was home free. I had done it. I had battled the fates and come up the victor.

On February 16, 2000, he came home scratched and covered in bite marks, smelling of cunt and alcohol. I hadnít beaten the fates at all. The fates had tricked and beaten me. Warning bells sounded and while I vaguely recognized their ominous tinkle, I decided to ignore their song and stay in the relationship, now well in the throes of the death jig. Immersed in my academy-award-winning role of the patient, forgiving wife, I waited it out and forgave him his indiscretions. I believed that if I just stuck it out, it would get better. I began to flirt with despair, but goddammit, I was with Tammy Wynette. I was standing by my man.

Iím happy to say that I finally got over him. Iím sane once again and eyeing up yet another Valentineís Day today. Iím 32 now. Iím successful. Iím single. Iím happy. And, in honour of the annual love saga I appear destined to undergo, Iíve got it bad for a married man.

Kerry McCluskey was born in southern Ontario, but fled the area for the North almost eight years ago. After five years in the thriving metropolis of Yellowknife, McCluskey moved to Nunavut where she resides with her three dogs, two cats and a collection of houseplants. 




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