Bloodsuckers, the L-Word and a Weird Myth

As I write this, it is February fourth, and in a mere ten days there will be an event known as Valentine’s Day. It has also been referred to (often by me) as “Oh-Sweet-Unholy-Crap-I-Forgot-It-Was-Valentine’s-Day Day” but, whatever you might happen to call it, it’s creeping up on us.

As you may have surmised, I have a few problems with this.

My main problem isn’t, despite what some of you might be thinking, the concepts that it involves. I’m fine with that, so long as I haven’t got to type it. The main thing that I dislike, rather, involves the abstract concept that the day represents: the “greeting card” quotient, if you will.

“Greeting card quotient?” a few of you query. Yeah, you know, the bit that has stuck in all of our collective brains since the first grade. I’m sure we all have vivid memories of Valentine’s Day in grade school tattooed on our brains, right? Red construction paper hearts taped all over the walls; the obligatory card handout at lunchtime wherein you had to give everyone — even the people you didn’t particularly like — a card; the girls wearing red and pink and the boys trying their best to ignore it… and of course there was always that one song that you were obliged to sing in music class about the mythical specter of death that has lurked in the background of every Valentine’s Day since the Greeks and Romans decided, in a fit of drunken luridness, to create him in the first place.

Ever since I was an impressionable little kid growing up in the great gray north of New Jersey, that Cupid thing scared the bejesus out of me. I mean, okay, I might be a not-quite-right-in-the-head quasi-fiction writer with certain issues we shan’t dive into, but I can’t possibly be the only one that feels this way. I think that concept of this poisonous cherub has got to be frighting to just about everyone.

“That adorable little Cupid, frightening?” the girls in the audience ask, chuckling. Definitely! The sheer weirdness is enough to make my skin crawl, and it should yours as well if you think about it enough. I mean… take this into consideration:

Essentially, what we have is a winged, naked dwarf — who, by the way, is armed — floating around shooting people randomly with drugged projectiles. In theory, those he shoots will immediately and uncontrollably fall in [incidental music] with the first person they see upon being pierced.

That’s a pretty funky notion right there.

It is fortunate, then, that this winged apparition of horror has become little more than a symbol in recent years, with no sightings reported since Woodstock. Most of his time, now, is spent lounging around on greeting cards and Post-It notes. I worry, though. I worry that even though the chances of seeing him in reality are about even with that of spotting a live unicorn in Times Square, the fact that he is even still acknowledged as a symbol at all carries an influence all its own. And sometimes…

I’m sorry… it has just been pointed out to me by a female friend of mine that I should not be going off on a lengthy and/or verbose tangent about this subject. So I will apologize and move on. I will also apologize to the local newspaper reporter from the other day, who asked me:

“What was the best Valentine’s Day present you ever got?”

And to whom I replied: “Shove it up your fucking ass.”

Ahem.

Where was I? Oh right, I was talking about NOT talking about my, er, “issues” with Valentine’s Day. So I’ll just say I don’t like it and leave it at that. Instead, what I’ll focus on is what I originally sat down to write about: something that is so weird, it’s too weird for even my infinite weirdness to grasp.

Every Valentine’s Day in a town near mine, there is an event which makes my skin not just crawl, but dance a frisky merengue every time I think about it. I’ve held off on writing about it for three years now, but with the latest newspaper clipping to be passed to me I just can’t put it off any longer. I’m talking about the annual Valentine’s Day Singles’ Blood Drive.

Think about that: a singles’ blood drive! Where single people go to meet other single people, mingle, talk and have a pint… of blood extracted from their arms. Doesn’t that seem just a little bit, er, off? What executive level brain surgeon thought of that one, anyway? I mean, c’mon… if you want to get lightheaded and hit on girls, you can do that at just about any decent bar and it won’t require the puncturing of any major arteries. Can you even imagine what goes on at these things?

No? Well you’re in luck… because I can.

First is mingling, that cornerstone of the singles’ mixer designed to “break the ice”, where single people gather and mull about pretending to try to meet. The women gravitate together in small herds and try to avoid the glances of the leering combover guys who can only seem to manage slinging off one bad pickup line (“Hey, you’re just my type! B positive!”) after another (A positive-ly, I’d like to get your number!”).

Once you’ve managed to single out that special person, it’s off to the room of uncomfortable lawn chairs for half an hour of conversation and bloodletting… and if your special guy’s conversation and pickup lines didn’t get you nauseous before, it’s sure to now that you’re getting blood drained from your body and are unable to escape.

After being forced to hold your match’s clammy comb-over hand for thirty minutes straight because he’s afraid of needles, and your pint of blood has been extracted from your body, it’s time to head to the bar for some warm orange juice and stale blood drive cookies. By this point, though, you’re pretty queasy and things aren’t making a whole lot of sense anymore. That “special” person has now attached themselves to you — in much the same way a leech might, if you’ll excuse the obvious irony — and has been complaining for the last two hours about how the blood drive staff couldn’t manage to find a vein and bruised his or her entire right arm, as if you weren’t there having your hand broken by their sweaty panic grip through the whole thing. You’re just trying to get your mind back to reality and, as a consequence, aren’t paying all that much attention to what they’re babbling, so they illustrate their point by sticking their bruised and punctured arm in your face for micro-examination.

Geez, where do I sign up?

Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be forced to watch that terribly saccharine Romance Classics channel, another institution that’ll be reaping great harvests with the coming of Valentine’s Day… though neither of those alternatives are particularly appealing, and border on the nauseating.

Er… I guess they do both beat getting shot by a naked dwarf, though.

AJH

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About Arthur J. Heller

I am a road you do not wish to traverse.
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