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Valentine’s weekend 1999 was a time I’ve pushed far back into a crevice of the “BACKSTAGE PASSES ONLY” section of my brain, to which I’d shredded my pass long ago. I was fourteen going on twenty, which got me into a lot of trouble.
The 14th of February was a cloudy, crisp day, and I had on new purple Capri pants that I insisted on wearing, despite it still being winter in my neck of the woods. Mom told me not to wear them that day, but I was fourteen, and that meant protesting against her.
A month before that, a guy named Quintin cannon-balled into my life. He was incredibly tall, sort-of cute, had a beard, was chunky overweight, and was seventeen. I had to force myself to like him.
Quintin lived an hour away, and attended all of my sporting events presenting me with large bouquets of flowers. For once, everyone was envious of me, that is, until I found out that Quintin’s mom owned a flower shop, and he always gave me some form of unwanted bouquet.
Quintin had smooth-talked my mom into letting me go for a drive (always troubling words) with him, even though it was a Sunday, which was church day. In order for it not to qualify as a date, -since I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16- I took my girlfriend, Nina, with me. Nina and I weren’t close close so it was a little awkward, but at lease I had a witness of the events about to unfold.
We cruised down the highway in his two-door Chevy Cavalier, as purple as he was gay. The chilly February air whipped in my freshly done hair, a pet-peeve of mine. I glared at Quintin as I rolled up my window. We drove around the city, and wound up at a park near my house. Nina was still in tow, but felt as creeped out as I did about being in the park with Quintin. Parks are for soccer and sex offenders, and I took note that there was not a soccer player in sight that Sunday.
While sitting on the swing-set, Quintin stood in front of me talking about how he was over his ex-girlfriend, seventeen-year-old Steffany, (always be wary of “Steffany” spelled with two “f’s” and a “y”) and how she was out of the picture. He then got on one knee, and asked me to marry him.
I choked/laughed/barfed as I took the ring, (it was tiny) got up, and walked over to Nina to help her by picking her chin up off the dirt. The two of us started walking back to my house. I felt that if any boy was stupid enough to “propose” at seventeen, that he should be willing to forfeit the ring he bought.
A few days later, I called Quintin from the pay phone in the same hallway as the gymnasium in my high school. I knew his schedule, and that he’d be home at the time, but no one answered. As the early morning weightlifters bounced their weights on the mats, I dialed again. This time his dad picked up. Since his dad never talked, it was a rare occasion for him to answer the phone.
Me: “Is…is Quintin home?” I asked, sheepishly, adding later, “This is…Caitlin.”
Quintin’s Dad: “No, he’s at the hospital right now.”
Me: “What? Is everything ok? What happened?” Then I wondered to myself if I even really cared, or if I was forcing my concern.
QD: “Didn’t anyone tell you?”
Me: “Tell me what?”
QD: “Steffany just gave birth to his baby, and Quintin proposed to her at the hospital!” He yelped.
I gently replaced the phone on the receiver.
Later that day, Nina and I drove the ring he had given me to a pawn shop on Broadway. I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that I, as a fourteen-year-old, was much smarter than Quintin.