When it came time to head over to Joyce’s on Valentine’s Day, I made sure I had everything I got for her with me – candy, flowers (those were delivered to Maya’s by their florist…Sandy arranged that for me), Snoopy airplane, card and Panda necklace. I put the phone in my Christmas Cup Phone and let the GPS guide me into San Gabriel, where it did look like a lot of businesses were closed for New Year’s. The address Ryan gave me to was a little house on a super quiet street. There was no one outside and I started getting the feeling that I was in the wrong place; I was expecting a restaurant or at least a storefront. I went up to the front door, and it seemed like there was dead silence inside. I rang the bell and nothing happened. I rang it again – I needed the dim sum even if I had a sinking feeling that I was in the wrong place and wouldn’t be able to explain what I wanted if someone Chinese did come to the door. Finally, though, the door opened…and I was face to face with what looked like a little Chinese grandmother.
“Mr. Brock?,” she asked.
I nodded. I reckoned I was the only big blue-eyed man she was expecting that day lol.
“You come,” she said, ushering me into the house, which smelled of Chinese food in a very good way. She led me into the kitchen, which was neat and clean and orderly, but where a lot of different things were cooking in pots and baskets and woks. I reckoned she was cooking dim sum for all kinds of people and not just me and Joyce. There was a little fold-down breakfast table with two chairs off to one side of the kitchen, and there were a few big cardboard boxes on it.
“You take,” she said, indicating the biggest box, which looked like it was big enough to hold enough food to feed the People’s Army lol. Before I could pick it up, she added “you pay” – which I did, handing her a $100 bill and then another $20 as a tip, like we normally calculate. “Too much,” she said, trying to give me back to the $20.
“For you,” I said. “You take.”
She looked at me, then at the $20, shrugged and took it, adding “thank you.”
I went to pick the box up.
“Heavy,” the woman said. “Heavy heavy.”
She was right. The thing weighed a ton, and I had no idea what was in it. Ryan was in charge of making the connection, and Keaton hadn’t given him a whole lot of information on what me and Joyce like…not that me and Joyce knew how to tell anyone what we liked the last time we were at the restaurant in San Gabriel. It may have been heavy, but it did smell good, and I hauled it out to the shitbox and found room for it on the back seat. Lucky I wasn’t chauffeuring around a 6’ panda bear this year or somebody or something would have had to ride shotgun lol.
I figured that, since we were staying in, the whole Valentine’s Day would just be really chill. We’d have our dim sum, I’d give Joyce her presents, and she’d probably have some romantic movie picked out for us to watch.
That’s not how it turned out.
I’m not sure what went wrong, but something did, and me and Joyce ended up having a huge fight…I’m not even sure what about. I mean…I think I did everything I was supposed to do for Valentine’s Day, Joyce was happy at first that I’d gotten the dim sum and we started unpacking the box and everything was going great…until it wasn’t going so great anymore. I’m really not sure what got her so pissed off…except that maybe I shouldn’t have told her how I got the dim sum and the necklace. But I thought it was hilarious that Keaton set me up with the dude who gets him girls…and that the dude turned out to be this totally normal looking Chinese businessman. How do you not tell someone that story?
But it got Joyce going off on some tack about ‘misogyny’ and ‘pimps’ and ‘exploitation’ and all kinds of other shit. I didn’t go into too much depth about why Keaton likes to pay for sex, since I didn’t expect Joyce to get that (I don’t exactly get it myself), but, seriously, innocent Methodist boy meets normal-looking Chinese procurer and dim sum-cooking grandmother makes for a very funny story.
Then Joyce started in on Maya and how I was siding with child abusers as they starved their kids (this was when I told Joyce the good news that Matteo had reached his goal weight) and she didn’t know what was ‘happening to me as a human being’. I gotta admit, I just wasn’t getting it, and I reckon I didn’t react the way she wanted me to. But I didn’t know how I was supposed to react. Joyce usually isn’t unreasonable like some chicks can get, so I was doubly surprised that that was how she was being…after me, Keaton, Ryan and the little Chinese grandmother went to all the trouble to give her a nice Valentine’s Day.
Joyce even threw the Snoopy airplane and the box with the necklace across the room at one point. I didn’t storm out of the house (ok, I threatened to do it), but I really don’t like having to raise my voice, especially to a woman…only I felt I had to defend myself.
That went on – with periods of sulking and not talking to each other – for two hours, and it was real unpleasant. It wasn’t as bad as the scene I had with Monica three years ago in the restaurant…but I couldn’t help feel like what I haven’t felt like with Joyce on Valentine’s Day before: one of those dudes you see in restaurants who look totally miserable even though they’re doing everything they can to make their girlfriends happy.
How’d it end? Ok, I’m glad to report, and just as mysteriously as it began. I usually understand my girlfriend pretty well, but, for some reason, she got herself into Chick from Hell mode. I think the dim sum saved the day, actually. Joyce said she was hungry and went to the box to unwrap something and heat it up, although I hadn’t gotten any instructions on what to do with the food when I got it to Joyce’s. The first thing she could lay her hands on was a package of dumplings of some kind which she put in the microwave.
Lucky for everyone involved they were fuckin bombass. Joyce even used the word (‘bombass’ not ‘fuckin’ lol.) Maybe that made her realize that I really did care and had gone to some lengths to make sure we were able to keep up our Valentine’s Day traditions. Then she felt bad about having thrown the Snoopy and the jewelry box across the room. The Snoopy didn’t work when she first pushed the button, which really sucked, but I was able to fix it, and then she thought it was as dang cute as I did.
And then everything was ok again.
The reason the box of food was so heavy was because there was a ton of food in it. Some of it we warmed up in the microwave, some of it in the oven, and there were three different soups with dumplings Joyce heated up in little pots on the stove (Joyce: “I so hope none of these are bat soup”). I’d say we ate half of it, and it took Joyce a while to get the rest into tupperwares. By that time we were cool again, and I knew better than to ask Joyce what set her off…since that might just get her to go off again.
Then she opened my card and the necklace…which she really liked. Ryan had included a little tag in the box that said ’14 kt’ (Ryan: “this way your girlfriend sure her neck won’t turn green”), so Joyce knew I didn’t get it for her in a Chinatown junk shop. I didn’t even know that jade came in that many colors (there were green, red, purple and yellow pandas, two of each), and Joyce said something about jade being “tactile”. I don’t know about that, but I was gonna take anything positive she said about the necklace.
Joyce had a Valentine’s present for me as well (Joyce: “I almost wasn’t going to give it to you…but I hope you like it.) It was a cool new Dodgers hat in a camo pattern with a white logo…and I did like it, very much.
Then it was movie time, and this year Joyce chose something called Love Affair, which she says is up there with greatest romantic movies of all time. Okay, I gotta admit that I found it was a little over-the-top when she gets hit by the taxi on her way to the Empire State Building, but somehow the actors got me believing by the long last scene. I wasn’t crying like Joyce got me to do with Now Voyager last year, but I was definitely into it.
And Joyce was a total mess lol. She said it’s one her favorite movies of all time and that there’s a color remake that’s more famous, but which she likes a lot less. She says the black and white one is “classier” and the acting doesn’t go completely over the top. I might disagree with that, but I haven’t seen the other one.
Actually my favorite part of the movie comes kinda early on, when they visit his grandmother. I really liked the actress who played the grandmother – Joyce said she was very famous for parts like that and got nominated for an Oscar – she reminded me of Meemaw a little…and got me to thinking that maybe that’s what Meemaw’s gonna be like in 20 years. I gotta ask Meemaw if she knows the movie and, if so, what she thinks of (Joyce gave me the name and made me write it down so I’d spell it right) Maria Ouspenskaya.
Then – wouldn’t you know it? – we were hungry again, so we microwaved some more of the dumplings and ate those, followed by what we discovered was a sweet, clear and kind of thick soup that we’d never had before. I reckon it felt kinda pleasant going down, but maybe you have to be Chinese to fully appreciate it. Besides, there were ice cream sundaes for after the Chinese food – strawberry ice cream with sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream – and I’ll take ice cream over soup for dessert any day lol.
The ice cream made me very happy…and I reckon that made Joyce very happy…and so we had make-up sex for Valentine’s Night. There are worse ways to celebrate that, trust me lol.
The next morning was Presidents Day, so Joyce didn’t have any work and I got to hang out with her until it was time to go work with Jacob. That meant sleeping in, bacon, eggs and plenty of biscuits for breakfast and coffee in my baseball mug. Since we had all those leftovers, at first Joyce suggested that we try a Chinese breakfast, but, no matter how awesome the dim sum were, we needed a break from them. And I’m sorry, but I don’t think steamed buns with a spicy meat feeling are what you should eat first thing in the morning.
So there were some bumps in the road, but Valentine’s Day 2021 ended up turning out pretty cool.