Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Down the rat hole for Valentine's Day

Rat & Heart, by Banksy (Sotheby's)

     Once upon a time my wife-to-be lived in an apartment on Melrose, down the block from the Nettelhorst School.
     The two things I most remember about that apartment are both romance-related. First, on Feb. 14, possessing both the key to her place and more creativity than money, I let myself into her apartment while she was at work and cleaned it, thoroughly, as a Valentine's Day present.
     Second, on the south side of the sidewalk was a hole shaped like a heart. Not a perfect Valentine's heart. A lopsided heart, one lobe somewhat bigger than the other. The discrepancy made it extra endearing. 
     Whether you see what is coming next can be considered a test of how romantic you are. Take those two facts — 1) a young courting couple and 2) a heart-shaped depression in the sidewalk. 
     What happens next?
     Of course the heart becomes part of the pair's personal romantic mythology. One of us — I can't remember who, probably me — notices it.
     I say "probably me" because, in most relationships, the less attractive half tends to try harder. And as a stocky, large-headed, potato-nosed, endomorphic struggling writer improbably dating a lithe, strawberry blond stone beauty attorney sprinting up the big law ladder, try I did.
     One Valentine's Day she got in the car for our date, holding a card and a small box containing four chocolates. She handed me the gift. I glanced nervously toward the back seat. Waiting there was a red laundry basket filled with presents. A bottle of wine. Flowers. A balloon. Candy. I'd seen the basket, first, in some bazaar in the basement of Field's and decided to just fill it. Kinda pathetic, really.
     So I noticed this heart, stopped, and stood on it. She stopped. We kissed. Doing so quickly becomes a private tradition. We spent the better part of a decade in the neighborhood, first when she lived on Melrose, then when we lived together a bit south on Pine Grove. So we'd often stop on our sidewalk heart and kiss.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Considering what a pain in the ass the rat hole has become to the neighbors, if I lived there, I'd be out there with a hammer & chisel & destroy it! I read some have suggested the city saw it out & save it somewhere else, which would also work, although 10 years from now, I'm sure people would say: "You saved that thing for posterity, were you all nuts?"

    1. Clark, old boy, were you perchance the Class Cynic in grade school?

    2. Class curmudgeon, maybe. I was the class clown. My puns, snarks, and one-liners got me in a good deal of trouble. Even in high school. Kicked out into the hall, and right into the detention hall. Clowns get the laughs, but not the dates. By my senior year, I wised up--and shut up.

    3. It was all fine on Roscoe St. until that stupid hole got international attention. If it was just a few people gawking at it, fine, but getting engaged there, a wedding, people leaving money & crap on it, insane, it needs to go!

    4. It's a little out of hand and over the top, but why should it bother anyone who doesn't live on the 1900 block of Roscoe? I don't, and I believe you don't, either. No skin off either of our noses.

      I would certainly bitch loudly if I did, however. Crowds and noise and trash and drunken late-night shenanigans would really piss me off, and I'd either try to get it moved...or go full vigilante and try to chop it up.

      But since I don't even live in Illinois anymore, I can afford a hearty chuckle, and I'm able to gaze from a distance and say "How Chicago!" I think it's funny and whimsical and cool. Guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

  2. You are lucky to have such a wonderful partner.

  3. I love it when you write about your family. And cleaning your then girlfriend’s apartment — a stroke of genius on your part. If she wasn’t already madly in love with you, that would do it. Would love to read her side of that story!

  4. Driving to my daughter’s new apartment for the first time last month, I was amused to see the rat hole posted as a point of interest on Apple Maps. Fortunately she’s near to, not on, the block in question.


  5. Much better ending to the "heart hole" story that I dreamed up, where you said "I have something I want to show you!", you lead her to the spot...only to have her step awkwardly into the hole and twist her ankle.

    And of course, that would be all your fault!

    HVD, Neil! May your love shine for eternity!

  6. Bansky-love his work-thanks for finding this perfect image for you piece today!


This blog posts comments at the discretion of the proprietor.