Midway through February 14th, you happen to open Facebook and make the unpleasant discovery that, once again, it is Valentine’s Day. This is bad news. Everything you do for the rest of the day will now inevitably be pathetic, as you are single on Valentine’s Day.
Never fear, though—you’re bulletproof. “It’s all just a federally created plug for the greeting card companies,” you quip in reply to your roommate’s attempts at sympathy. What you lack in companionship you make up for in snark. “Anyway, I’ve got work to do tonight.”
Big mistake. Every third aisle is occupied by another pair of giggling, sticky freshmen. All you wanted was to get that copy of Rousseau you reserved; is that too much to ask? Yet the longer you spend walking through the stacks, the more uncomfortably aware you become that you have only one Harvard Challenge left to tick off the list, and no way of doing so in the near future. The air is pallid, and smells like wasted time.
Au Bon Pain
You need to make a quick exit from Widener’s depths. Hopping across the street, you find the biggest booth at Au Bon Pain and claim it, glowering at the elderly couple who’d been on the approach.
The whole place is colored bright mustard yellow, in a vain attempt at optimism. Ordering coffee, you suddenly remember that scene in “Good Will Hunting” where Matt Damon and Minnie Driver go on a date outside this exact same café, although Matt dumps Minnie a few scenes later. Staring into the inky swirl of your $4 Americano, you wonder if you will ever have the same luxury.
Scooting out of ABP, the smug specter of Matt Damon’s face close behind, you feel a powerful urge to drown your sorrows in copious amounts of starch and meat.
As soon as you open the door to Flat Patties, you realize your mistake. The place feels empty and lovelorn, like an apartment post-divorce: your beloved Felipe’s has officially moved out. For a moment, you feel tempted to bail and run three doors down: having never actually gotten a burger here, doing so feels like infidelity. But you’re already at the front of the line. The girl behind the counter gives you a desperate stare; you reluctantly place an order. For a moment, you consider asking when she gets off work.
Never mind. The burger tastes like cardboard.
What were you thinking? All you wanted was a simple dessert, to keep eating your feelings away. But Crema? The nearby coffee shop has shed its hipster cuteness for a vibe more closely resembling that of a New Delhi train station. Adorable couples pack every cubic foot of this place, with one pair rocking matching Harvard “H” sweaters. If they end up conceiving tonight, will the baby be born wearing a lower-case “h” cardigan?
The guy serving pastries clearly didn’t sign on for this. You try and give him a sympathetic wave, but he’s too busy packing up 13 boxes of cardioid cupcakes. Instead, you sit meekly behind the counter and eat two éclairs by yourself.
LA Burdick Artisanal Chocolates
Glutted with coffee, burgers, pastry, and the sickly weight of your own sexual frustration, you stumble out of Crema and into the night. Your phone rings: one of your blockmates got caught up and needs you to pick up his girlfriend’s present. On to the dark and unholy temple of Valentine’s Day: LA Burdick.
The walls are lined with rows upon rows of delicate morsels. One of their specialties appears to be chocolate mice, which are cute individually but bring up unpleasant memories of your freshman year laundry room when presented in groups. As you wait, you can’t help but overhear the phone conversation nearby: “So I was going to buy the Signature Heart Assortment, but do you think that’d seem cheap? Maybe I should get the Valentine’s Crate, instead?”
You check the price tag on aforementioned Crate: $88.00 plus tax. Maybe the single life isn’t so bad, after all. How much for that delicious-looking white chocolate penguin? No, just one, thanks.
— Nathan A. Cummings