Greek-American Stories: Yiannis’ Valentine Nightmare

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)

On a perfect sunny, cloudless, seventy degrees morning, Valentine’s Day dawned. Yiannis, wearing a silk-wool Armani suit imported from Italy and Sevastaki shoes from Athens, entered Dixon’s, all smiles, holding a shopping bag. He brought coffee for everyone and laid a tray of a dozen glazed donuts before his surprised friends who thanked him, graciously. Then, he produced three fancy, red satin boxes of chocolates, placing one into the hands of a stunned George. “This is for your delightful wife, George. Give her my best regards, please.” Then, “and this John is for your wife too, a small gift for her many kindnesses to me and my family. We always enjoy her koulourakia and the beautiful flowers from your store.” He handed the third heart to Dimos. “And, this,” he said tearfully, “for your wife with my everlasting gratitude for the sumptuous Thanksgiving day dinner and the many pies and cakes she gave me over the years. What a woman! A trivial gift but, maybe, God willing, I’ll do better.” For Kipreos, he had a pair of tickets to a Broadway show. “Take that pretty girl, Stella, to the show,” he smiled, winking.

Cries of gratitude were showered on Yiannis as onlookers, some of whom applauded, watched with touching amazement at the wonderful man’s generosity to his friends. “I want to stay with you all but I have other errands to do.” Thanks were given in profusion as Yiannis waved. “‘Think nothing of it, guys. It was my pleasure. I only wish I had done it long before now.” They watched, and continued waving as he went out the door, passing in front of the wide glass window of the cafeteria. Then, Yiannis, viewing the row of jewelry stores situated along the diamond center, entered one in particular to pick up a gift for his wife, Areti who was waiting for him at home. He told her not to go to work that day, being that Valentine’s Day was a very special occasion. Once at home he handed her a small black velvet box that she opened with a fluttering heart. In the little box was a heart shaped, ruby ring, set in platinum, surrounded with diamonds that she tearfully placed on her work-worn finger. He kissed her like Clark Gable did Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind, adding that he had made reservations for the two of them at a very fine, high class Greek restaurant in mid-town Manhattan.

“It’s so little compared to all your goodness and caring, Areti, my darling. Nothing’s too good for you.” Deeply touched, she took his hand in hers and asked, “what did I do to deserve such a generous, affectionate, loving, kind, understanding husband like you?” Taking in a breath, her hand over her heart, she confessed that she, too, had a gift for him. “I worry that if I leave this world, Yiannaki mou, what will become of you? So, I bought a $100,000 life insurance so that you may never have to WORK!” The word, ‘work’ shocked Yiannis awake as the alarm clock shrilled raucously, by his bed. Dry mouthed and sweating, he sat up, looked around, scratching his head. “Damn! What a nightmare! Must have been all that cheese cake I ate late last night. Last time I’ll ever do that!” Then, he looked at the calendar. Valentine’s Day. Double damn! He thought about his dream, cringing, recalling the silk suit, expensive shoes, donuts and coffee and boxes of expensive chocolates for the guys in Dixon’s, the ruby ring for Areti.

“This is serious! Something’s wrong with me! Maybe I’m coming down with something bad. Lousy cheesecake!” He touched his forehead. Cool! He took his pulse. Normal! “Well, if nothing’s wrong with me, I gotta do something,” he said. Pulling the covers over his head, thoughts of his daughter Barbara came into his rattled brain. Oh, yeah! She’ll definitely crow and nag at him if he didn’t get something for her mother on this holiday. He sat up recalling last year’s tirade. “No, not all that again!” Doing some hard thinking, he sank down under the comforter, pulling it over his head and muttered, “I know! I’ll play sick today, that cheese cake was bad. Yeah! Then, I’ll get a box of...something...maybe, chocolates, tomorrow, when they’re half price.”