Thursday, April 18, 2013

Worst Date Ever

I often think of this date as one of the first we ever had, but then Lori reminds me that we had been dating for about nine months. When I think of the circumstances of the date, I know that she's right.

But I treated it like a first date. I was excited. Maybe too excited.

It was planned out perfectly: dinner at one of our favourite restaurants, a romantic soak in a hot tub, a light-hearted movie, and then a long evening of passion. No wonder I was excited.

The restaurant was as old as I was, having opened its doors in 1965. I was about eight years old when I first went to it, and I loved it from that first time. Peter's Pantry, on Richmond Road, near Lincoln Heights, was the best Italian restaurant in the city. It was famous for its pizzas but made a killer lasagna too.

When I was a kid, the dimly lit dining room with its Tiffany lamps and ornate brass railings was pretty swanky. The waitresses were pretty, adorned in what now seemed like ballet body suits with tassels that hung from slender waists. In my teens, the owner married one of the waitresses, and the uniform changed to more-conservative skirts.

Shortly after Lori and I started dating, I learned that Peter's Pantry was her favourite pizza restaurant. She had been going there for years and would often go there after work, with her then coworkers. The bar in the basement of the restaurant, Sneaky Pete's, served fishbowl-sized goblets of Long Island Iced Teas and Zombies.

On the night of this date, we chose Peter's Pantry because it was across the street from a strip mall that held our second destination, Water Works, a pseudo-spa that housed hot tubs in private rooms. A friend of mine assured me that the facilities were clean, that he had gone on several romantic dates there.

Guaranteed to put you in the mood, he promised me.

Crossing Richmond Road at that time of night presented its own problems. There was an intersection with a crosswalk on the far side of the restaurant, but for us that would mean walking about 100 metres in the opposite direction from the strip mall before we could cross. Another set of lights was in the direction we had to go, but it was on the far end of the mall, which would add another 200 to 300 metres to get to our destination. So we decided to wait for a gap in the traffic and travel directly across the street.

I was anxious. I wanted to have Lori to myself in the hot tub. Though we brought bathing suits, they were optional.

I looked down the street to my left. A taxi was coming, after which there would be about a five-second gap. Looking to my right, the traffic light had just turned green, and it would be only a few seconds of empty space before a long line of cars would have us waiting longer than I cared to wait.

I decided it was time to go. So I said to Lori, "Let's do it," and started out across the street.

I was anxious. I was excited. I wanted Lori in that hot tub. There would be no swim suits.

I was also forgetful. There was, of course, that taxi to wait for, and I didn't wait.

It seemed to happen in slow motion, both for Lori and for myself. For Lori, she saw this person that she loved be transformed from a person to a rag doll. To see a body in flight with no control over his movements.

For me, I first felt a massive, solid object hit me just below my hips, lifting my feet off the ground. Instinctively, my hands went out to either side as I tried, in vain, to maintain balance. As I moved sideways, my legs moving upward as my head and torso swung downward, my left arm struck the A-pillar of the car, softening the blow that would be my head, bouncing off my involuntarily flexed bicep.

My body, still airborne, was sent into a new spin as I rolled along the passenger side of the taxi and came down on my chest on the gravel shoulder of the road. I thought I would slide back toward Lori, but when my legs came down, one was still out on the street. I remember the pressure in my boot as the rear tire of the taxi rolled over my right foot. I could see stars across my eyes, I was winded, and just wanted to embrace the coolness of the ground.

That's when the sound came.

I could hear Lori, a scream emanating from her at a volume that would put any victim in a horror movie to shame. It made my heart stop. It scared the life from me. And, as much as I just wanted to close my eyes and rest, I knew that I needed to calm Lori down.

"I'm all right," I shouted, pushing myself from the ground, shakily getting to my feet. "I'm all right."

In the darkness of the evening, illuminated by an amber street light, I could see the fear in Lori's eyes. She was looking down at my legs. In a sobbing, panicked voice, she shouted, "Where is your foot?"

It was my turn to panic. I didn't want to look down. I knew that the taxi had driven over my foot. Being December, I was wearing my high, black, leather boots; the ones, at the time, I called my Nazi shit-kicker boots. They went up almost to my knees and looked like they were built for marching in. Inside, they were fur-lined and had thick, durable soles.

I had stood up, but I hadn't thought much about it. "Where's your foot?" Lori repeated. Taking in a deep breath, I looked down.

Both feet were exactly where they were supposed to be. The leather on my right foot was dirty, no doubt had the pattern of the tire tread, and the leather had slightly separated where it met the edge of the sole, but it looked like the boot had protected my foot. Which was a good thing, though I was scheduled for some reconstructive surgery on it on the following week anyway.

"My foot's right here," I explained lifting it toward her to inspect.

"I mean, how is your foot?" Only then did she realize what she had been screaming.

By then, the taxi driver had emerged from his cab and came to see how I was. I apologized to him, but on the dimly lit stretch of road, he thought he hadn't seen me and had clipped me. I told him it was my fault. Inspecting his car, we could see a dent on his hood and on the front passenger door, paint scraped down the side. But he didn't care. He was concerned that I was all right.

I took several steps. My foot hurt but not badly. I was limping only a little and could feel that nothing was broken. My left elbow hurt where it struck the A-pillar. I had a slight headache. My left side was tender: it would be bruised by morning.

But I felt that nothing was broken. I was incredibly lucky.

I got the cabbie's business card and Lori and I continued on our way.

At the hot tub, the mood was shot. We figured that the hot water would soothe my muscles and help me relax. I still insisted that Lori forgo her bikini. Seeing her naked in the tub would distract me from any pain I felt, and the pain was steadily increasing.

We didn't go to a movie. We went back to my place. We didn't have a night of passion; instead, I fell asleep almost immediately. Lori woke every so often to see if I was okay.

The next day, as I suspected, I woke up to a bruised arm, chest, and hip, the three parts that took the brunt of the collision. My foot was stiff and sore, but it always was, which was why I was having surgery the next week.

I was going to be fine.

And I'm still here.

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