River City Jules: Bad date, happy outcome

Aaah, Valentine’s Day, a day for celebrating love. (And/or eating chocolate.) In honor of this special day I have a special story to share, inspired by a question my oldest daughter recently asked, “Mom, what was your worst date?”

It was spring of my freshman year of college, and I had a crush on my physics lab partner. Mike was a junior and absolutely adorable. After several starry-eyed months I finally gathered the courage to invite him to a date party, a Mexican fiesta.

We laughed and danced all night. And when the music finally stopped, we decided to meet up with a few friends at his fraternity. In daylight, one would hardly notice the concrete stairwell leading to the basement outside of the beautiful, red brick mansion. In the dark of night with the exterior light missing, one might even trip over it.

That is exactly what Mike did, right before falling down the steps.

I turned to help him, but the stairwell was pitch black. I couldn’t quite see him, so I took another step forward. Unfortunately I missed the first stair and ended up flying over Mike, landing at the bottom of the concrete stairwell face-first.

Twenty minutes later I was on a gurney in the ER with Mike looking down at me, stroking my hair. He said I had a tiny cut on my nose, but I looked great.

He said I looked great!

Clearly I had suffered a head injury, because at this point, the date seemed to be going even better than I’d hoped.

“Just a little bitty cut,” Mike said smiling sympathetically. “The doctor needs to sew it up, but you’re going to be just fine.”

I hung on his every word, dreaming of the day we would tell this story to our grandchildren.

“Your grandfather and I spent our first date in the emergency room. But he was smitten with me. Even the stitches down my nose couldn’t change that.”

The doctor finished, and I visited the restroom before we left to freshen up for the goodnight kiss I was certain to receive. After all, he said I looked great.

But the restroom mirror told a different story. A trail of blood ran out of each nostril, around my mouth, over my jaws, down my neck, and had saturated the top of my shirt. Even my Mexican doll earrings were bloody. My face had swollen and started to bruise, and that “tiny cut” was a deep gash that looked to have been sutured with barbed wire.

As I stared at my Rocky I-III reflection, it suddenly hit me that I was probably not getting a goodnight kiss. And grandchildren were completely out of the question.

“Did you ever go out again?” Ellie asked.

“Um… no,” I replied.

“Your nose looks okay now,” she consoled, just as her dad walked in from shoveling snow.

“Yes,” I said, smiling at the boy I met six months after my tumble down the stairs, “things usually end up working out exactly right.”

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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