Unbelievably Still Last Valentine’s, at night

“What the hell are you wearing?” James’s voice echoed in the empty apartment, seeming to gain support from the entire condo. Lakshmi rolled her eyes.

“It’s a theme party. I’m dressed up as-” she was cut off abruptly.

“You’re dressed up as another frigid winter of sexlessness. Now go wash your face, and put on the nice, human girl costume that I know you have somewhere. You know, pretend to be human? I know you can do it. I believe in you. And hurry up: the guys are here but I told them to take the stairs. You’ve got about 10 minutes before they make it up here,” James laughed, making his way over to the laptop to change the music. “You’ll thank me after you’re re-dressed,” he called into the hallway, hearing a muffled string of nonsense coming from Lakshmi’s general direction.

“So, its you and me, plus the girls, and Vishnu’s coming. You said he’s bringing his roommate? What’s he like? Is he cute? Single? Gay? Bi? Flirty when drunk?” he called out, putting on some Beyonce. Lakshmi stumbled out of her room, now looking more human and alluring in a Morticia Adams styled black lace dress.

“He’s an ass, or he sounds like one. I’ve never met him,” she added, stopping before he could comment on her transformation “At least the bloodstains on my mouth helped the red lipstick… you can’t see it on my chin anymore, can you? Shit, shit, he’s here. Act boring so I look good,” she whispered, hearing voices in the hall.

“Boring or bored? One requires no acting. Straight people…” James muttered as Vishnu opened the door.

After obligatory hand shaking and name repeating, in triplicate, they settled down in the living room with some drinks. Vishnu wandered over to the laptop and put on some Kanye while James stared at Taylor conspicuously. Lakshmi nudged him, but he only leaned in to look more intensely.

“I know you from somewhere. Do you do yoga at Prisma downtown?” James asked.

“Yes, I do! Every day at lunch, and twice a day on weekends when I can! Do you normally wear neon blue leggings?” While Taylor and James bonded over their mutual love of the smoothies at their yoga studio, Naomi arrived home from work. She waved hi, rushed into her room to change, and Lakshmi downed her drink melodramatically before walking up to the Sex God.

“So, good day at work?” she started, offering one of Grace’s mini calzones.

“Can’t complain, how about you, Mrs. Adams? I didn’t think that you were serious about the costumes,” Vishnu said, looking her up and down. ‘Why had they never hooked up?’ he thought to himself. Naomi, his ex-girlfriend of not that long ago walked back into the room, wearing a cheerleader costume and covered in fake blood. Even half dead, she looked drop dead gorgeous.

“That’s why,” he said out loud accidentally. Luckily, Lakshmi just smiled and giggled. What was she talking about? Was she talking? Damn, was this calzone ever good.

“Let’s play a game!” Vishnu called out, breaking his own awkward train of thought. “It’s an anti-Valentine’s party so how about an anti-love game? Cards Against Humanity; the least romantic thing wins”.

“I’ll grab the shots,” Lakshmi called out, running to the kitchen to hyperventilate in private. Naomi followed her in and looked at her with concern.

“You know, he isn’t worth all this trouble. I mean, yeah he’s a great boyfriend, but you don’t need to be…. Lakshmi? Are you ok?” Naomi made sure that, between her gasps into an LCBO bag, she was ok. She brought the jello shots into the living room and they started playing. Lakshmi came in and picked up the hand they had dealt her, smiling as if nothing had happened.

“So, how was everyone’s day?” James asked, dealing a devastating blow with his answer to What does the fox say? (Teenage pregnancy; absolutely not romantic, Juno be damned).

“Oh, ask Vishnu, he sent me the funniest text today about some model wiping out and breaking her leg!” Taylor gushed, practically pissing himself with giddy laughter. Everyone else in the room exchanged a look. “What? C’mon, don’t be like that; none of you guys are models. Wait, are you?” He asked, looking around at their very attractive faces, concerned that he had crossed the line of appropriate first meeting conversation.

“No, it’s just that…” Lakshmi started. She didn’t need to continue because the door swung open at that moment, and Kali hopped into the room on crutches, with Grace following behind her. She was following because Kali was wearing a red gown with a long, flowing train. You couldn’t even see her cast under the layers of billowing fabric gathered around her feet. How she managed not to trip was anyone’s guess.

“Hey guys! Are we the last ones here?” Kali hobbled over to Lakshmi, who took her crutches and gave up her seat so she could sprawl on the big chair. The entire room watched as Taylor connected the dots, and then watched his alabaster face flush as he realized what he’d said.

“So, are they letting you keep the dress?” James asked, mercifully letting Taylor sit in shameful silence. “I thought you said it was a theme shoot? At the aquarium?” James pawed at the tulle sarcastically.

“It was! I was a mermaid, and they had all these poufy gowns and they covered my cast so it all worked out. And they let me pick one, so I chose this one. Only kinda because I ripped it a little when I tried to take it off, and I didn’t want them to find out, but also because it’s gorgeous! I hope it’ll fit in The Closet,” Kali responded, holding both her head and a pink plastic cup of lemon-lime pop high. “I only had like 3 hours of sleep last night, and I’m tripping on T3s, so I think we can all cut me some slack. Oooh, mini calzones!” She put three in her mouth at the same time and struggled to chew all of them simultaneously. Lakshmi took the opportunity to draw attention away from her friend’s mouth.

“Can I just propose a toast? Now that we’re all here, and finally in the same place, I just want to say how happy I am that, even though we’re all alone this Valentine’s, we have each other. I mean, I know I’ve just met you Taylor, but I definitely feel like I know you. So cheers, to loneliness and a weird hangover tomorrow from candy hearts and cheap vodka!” Lakshmi clinked her plastic shot glass against everyone else’s and downed her first (of many) shots of Blue, her jiggly drink of choice. She had decided, after the day she had endured, that flats were the only sane option, so she didn’t trip when she heard a scream from the kitchen a few minutes later. She rushed to see what was wrong.

“Why would you put…. it’s Valentine’s Day! What is… I don’t think I like your theme parties…” Taylor was stammering in the direction of the counter top, on which rested a bowl of candy with a fake severed hand that moved if you tried to take any candy. “This is not cool, seriously. This is totally going in my blog.” He stormed back into the living room, angrily opened a heart shaped chocolate, and left Lakshmi alone with Vishnu. He had run over when he heard his roommate’s trademark shriek. She met his eyes for a moment, arching an eyebrow.

“Taylor is… a good guy. He really is,” Vishnu said, in answer to her unspoken question. It would have been convincing if Lakshmi were paying attention. He had put his hands on her shoulders to face her towards him as he explained how great it was living with him, and how his quirks were annoying but he was really cool most of the time. Her heartbeat quickened just a little bit, realizing how much like her dreams this all was. She came back to earth just in time to hear Grace laugh in the living room, letting her know that she was approaching the sweet spot in her drunkenness and the party was about to get started. She looked up at Vishnu, who was smiling.

“You know, you have really pretty eyes. I don’t know why I never noticed them before. Maybe its all the pink light bulbs but they really … I don’t know why I never noticed them before,” he smiled at her, with his stupid beautiful eyes beaming down at her from more than a foot above. Stupid, beautiful, Canadian Sex God.

“Thanks. I….think Grace is almost drunk now. We should get in there before…” she sputtered out non-sequiturially.

“Right. Drunk Grace. I don’t think the police could see if she took off her clothes and ran around on your balcony, but your neighbours might so I better … and she’s on the balcony. I’ll be right back,” Vishnu laughed as he ran after their friend.

“Right. I’ll be… here,” Lakshmi muttered to herself, reaching for another shot of Blue and looking at her reflection in the mirror by the doorway. “Waiting.”


Still Last Valentine’s Day

Away from the cacophony of the downtown hustle and bustle, Taylor pressed into his last pose. He exhaled slowly and returned to child’s pose. He listened to the rhythmic, soothing forest noises over the sound system. The instructor recited some words of wisdom from Confucius, or a tea bag, or some other equally wise and culturally ambiguous source. Taylor murmured a reverent NAHMAHSTAY as he left the sweaty room, bowling deeply as he exited. His yoga mat and 3 sweat drenched towels lay on the floor. Honestly, he didn’t have time to deal with them if he wanted to get one of the last Acai-Pomegranate-Blueberry recharge shakes. He rushed his shower, not even taking the time to style his hair, and dressed quickly in his Brooks Brothers suit. Running past the cleaning lady and nearly knocking her to the ground as he rounded the corner, he made eye contact with the smoothie stand attendant. ‘If he knows what’s good for him’, Taylor thought, ‘he’ll remember our deal’. Sure enough, he had an APB smoothie waiting for him. Taylor huffed and puffed as he pulled out his wallet.

“That’ll be $7.25,” the attendant said. Taylor pulled out a crisp, purple $10 bill and smiled at the attendant.

“You know what? You keep those quarters,” Taylor beamed, holding his hand out for his toonie. He picked up his smoothie from the counter, nearly knocking over the tip jar stuffed with bills, and walked away beaming ear to ear. ‘What a nice thing to do’ he thought to himself, thinking how few people would take the time out of their day to tip their smoothie guy. ‘And 75 cents? That’s more than 10%! That’s more than I tip waiters. That kid must be through the roof.’ He tried to hold onto his high, because as soon as he got back up to the office, it was back to the drudgery of his work day. He braved the 3 minutes of frigid February air on his face, pushing past someone to jump through the open door first. Like he was going to wait for that asshole with a cane? Canes haven’t been cool since 1999 – what a douchebag. He sauntered into the lobby and slurped his smoothie loudly as he waited for an elevator. A woman walked up next to him, also waiting for the elevator. He not so subtly checked out her figure, which he approved of, and when she sent him a sideways glare, he beamed, “TGIF, am I right?” She exhaled sharply and said something about taking the stairs. ‘Good for her’, Taylor thought, watching her hips sway as she walked away at a brisk pace. ‘It’s so great that the women at this company are so fitness oriented. I swear, almost every woman I’ve ever seen waiting for the elevator decides to take the stairs instead. Maybe that’s why we don’t hire fatties? Or maybe we do and I just never see them because they’re too busy shame eating at their desks. Ha! Classic Tay-tay. That is so going in my blog’. The elevator arrived and he stepped inside, slurping his way up to the top floor alone.

“Sign, stamp, file. Sign, stamp, file. Sign, sign, sign. Stamp, stamp, stamp. File, file, file,” Taylor sang to himself to no discernible tune whatsoever. He didn’t exactly understand what he was signing, or where the files ended up, but after his grandfather had passed on a huge chunk of the company to him, he thought it was only right to learn the ropes from the inside out. That, and the lawyers said something about there being a clause about him working a mandatory 5 years at the company in an entry level job before he got access to the signing rights… but really, it was all about the experience. He was almost done his fifth year and he almost entirely understood what the company did: it owned a lot of other smaller companies. On his desk, his cell phone buzzed. ‘I’ve been at work for an hour since I took yoga-lunch; I deserve a break,’ he thought. ‘It’s not like the McDonalds crew never slacks off a bit’. He thoughtfully scrolled through a social feed of indeterminate colour and origin. ‘Not that I actually know what they do at McDonalds. That is definitely not clean eating’. He then entered an hour long stupor of scrolling and laughing vacantly, stopping only to accept some files from his friend Naomi in accounting. Their mid-afternoon socializing was interrupted by a text from her ex who needed to borrow some crutches because they broke their leg. ‘That poor guy! He probably slipped on some ice,’ Taylor thought sympathetically. The last thing he did before he went back to work was read a text from his roommate. One of his friends had an ex who was a model, and she tripped in her heels and broke her leg. Laughing to himself at how clever he was, he sent off a Twat about models being too dumb to walk and think at the same time. Good ol’ Vishnu, he always had something for an afternoon laugh.

Last Valentine’s Day

“Fuck me…” Lakshmi groaned, rolling over to avoid the sickening neon red glow of her window. Sunlight. Morning. Early or late? She groped around blindly in her bed until her fingers touched something cold and hard. A quick glance at her phone told her that, on any other morning, she would have another 45 minutes of peaceful, undisturbed dreams of the Canadian Sex God. But today, she was late.

“Red in the morning…” she muttered to herself as she mechanically rose from her twisted linen cocoon.  “Is it sailor’s warning? Or shepherds? Why didn’t those professions just check whatever forecast the rest of the village used? I mean, they might not have had smartphones to tell them to grab an umbrella in the morning, but the rest of the town probably didn’t just stand there gawking at rain and lightning with their mouths agape. Or did they…”

She glanced in the mirror at the product of 15 minutes on autopilot, narrated by the soothing sounds of her shower brain thoughts. Washed, dressed, coiffed, and all with 5 minutes to spare.

“Then again…” she said to her reflection, evening her eyeliner with a practiced smudge of her finger, “this was when lipstick was considered witchcraft because it could seduce men. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit.” She blotted her red pout on a little square of paper, leaving a perfect little O.

“Thankfully, we’ve evolved.” She shot herself a smirk and a wink in the mirror as she got up to leave. Thanks to her phone’s dutiful warning, she grabbed her gloves, earmuffs, scarf, and a ski mask on her way out the door of apartment 1413, hearing the door click locked behind her.

‘She’s always early, you have to beat her there,’ Kali thought to herself. Her phone buzzed another angry reminder that she had breakfast with Lakshmi now. She checked her hair in the hallway mirror and tried to rub last night’s mascara into a fashionably grungy look. Her clock was telling her she had exactly 10 minutes to run to Fran’s, meaning she had woken up at 6:45, approximately 5 minutes ago, and she had enjoyed exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes of sleep. Why did she do this to herself? She ran past a group of impossibly peppy and awake tourists taking pictures of the flatiron building, who seemed blissfully ignorant of the fact that this was not New York, and she prayed that her towering heels wouldn’t give out under her while she was in front of that many people armed with cameras.

‘Wait, I don’t own any thigh high boots….not since The Incident,’ she realized as she ran through the park, sidestepping a cockapoodle and jumping over a french bulldog. She prayed the costume wrangler hadn’t cheaped out on footwear again, because she was not looking forward to a repeat of The Incident. A glance at her watch confirmed that she was actually early; a whole 120 seconds early to be exact. Sauntering through the door like a towering, grungy goddess, she could only enjoy her elation for a few seconds. She felt a sudden sinking feeling when she saw Lakshmi wave at her from a booth, sipping her god damned espresso. But it wasn’t just the feeling you get when your crush sees you looking like a Twilight fangirl the morning after The Vampire Lestat made sweet, angry, immortal love to you. It was at that exact moment that her heels chose to buckle. Lakshmi’s eyes lit up in horror and, Kali suspected, a little bit of glee as Kali crumpled into a heap of long limbs and clouds of black glitter.


“You’re what?” James asked into the phone receiver. He scribbled a note on a sticky pad and added it to a colourful cloud of paper on the wall. Lakshmi running late? Inconceivable.

“So what if Kali broke her shoe, why are you late? And you know it’s not actually called being late until after the time passes, right? You don’t need to call in almost not early….” The sound of frantic heels clicking on tile halted James mid-sentence. Lakshmi was hobbling away from the stairs wearing 5″ pumps.

“Girl, if you wanted to put the fear back into fierce, you did it. Why are you wearing fuck me heels TO work? I thought you just brought them for when the Sex God shows up? Is he visiting today?” He glanced at his reflection in his computer screen and patted his hair in place.

“James, don’t be a catty gay. You’re bad at it,” Lakshmi huffed, throwing herself at her chair and kicking off her shoes. She reached desperately into her desk drawer for her back-up back-up shoes which were, mercifully, flats.

“The elevator is broken, I gave my shoes to Kali for her trip to the hospital, these were the only other shoes I had with me, and it’s fucking February in Toronto so I couldn’t go barefoot. So yes, I had to wear these up 16 flights of stairs because the elevator is broken.  And no, thankfully the Canadian Sex God is not stopping by today. Also,” she stood up, now only a petite 5 feet 2 inches compared to her previous, statistically average 5’7″ with the heels, and put her hands on her hips defiantly. “Sex and the City called, and it doesn’t want its stereotypical gay male trope back, because even in 1998 it was old.”

“Fine, I guess I’ll continue to re-establish myself as the hetero friendly black gay man in my position as head sports writer. Tell me, how does it feel to be a lower level gossip monger at Toronto’s premier excuse for daily news?” James wheeled his chair over to where she was standing and held out his pen like a microphone.

“Shut up, Queen James,” Lakshmi retorted lamely, pushing his chair back to his desk. She sat down at her own and looked up to her pitch board where a neon pink sticky note reading “Tardy” was nestled in between a picture of a Kardashian baby bump and a Bieber breakdown. She furiously ripped it off and crumpled it into a ball before throwing it towards the trash. It fell, pathetically, more than a foot short. She could hear James snickering as she put on her headphones and started writing “The Daily Dish” for the next 5 days. The clock ticked its way towards 8:59am.