Conversation Hearts Predict Valentine's Day

On February 14, things have a way of turning ugly.

Corbett's (12721 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest) is a small, wood-paneled bar in a shopping center next to Suniland Park. Inside, there's a small circular bar with an island of TV sets. Hanging from the flat-screens are stemware and an inflatable flamingo mounting an inflatable shark.

Now that's what I call amore.

Not far away, Caroline is nursing a Newcastle. A tall girl in tight black hot pants and tube socks stretched up to her thighs, she flings her wavy dark hair over her shoulder and says, "I don't really like Valentine's Day, but I once had a boyfriend who tried to change my mind. He said he'd take us to do something different, and we ended up on one of those casino booze-cruise things... The bay was really choppy, so no one did any drinking or gambling. It was like listening to a puke orchestra for four hours."

To cheer up this lovelorn chick, I offer a candy conversation heart.

It reads, "Lover Boy."

"The same guy who took me on that awful date also claimed that in the three years we were together, he had slept with 50 different women," she continues. "We were living with one another when we broke up, so I crashed at a friend's house. My ex got all stalker-like and would pull into her driveway and just sit there for hours doing drugs and listening to music. Finally I cracked and walked up to his window. He rolled it down, ejected a mix CD of love songs he had made for me from the stereo, ripped it in half, and started slicing his arm with the jagged edge. When I asked him what the fuck he was doing, he said, 'One cut for every girl I cheated on you with.'"

A bloody February 14? Saint Valentine would be proud.

A little later, at Voodoo Bar (653 Washington Ave., Miami Beach), a pretty kid who calls himself Jester tells this story about the guy who inspired this Saturday's holiday: "He was so heartbroken after his mistress dumped him that he stabbed himself in the chest. Then, as a token of his eternal love, he sent her his still-beating heart."

Neatly lipsticked and eyelinered, Jester is a total Pete Burns look-alike (sans the eye patch and disturbing plastic surgery). He's sipping a cocktail with his pinkie up at The MausoleuM, a nomadic Wednesday-night fetish ball. He pulls an orange heart from my handy one-pound bag of V-Day candy.

"Be Good," it reads.

"I'm good to everyone," he says, brushing his long, silky raven hair with his chipped black fingernails, "except to kittens. I really hate kittens."

Nearby is Gabriel, a 22-year-old Latino, sitting alone on one of the lounge's long, plush benches. As leather-clad bodies collectively touch-step to thunderous industrial beats, he takes a tiny confection that reads, "I Hope."

"I hope that this Valentine's Day with my new girlfriend goes better than the last one I tried to celebrate," he says, and then explains that some tween tart of an ex made out with another guy right in front of him in the cafeteria. Then she quit his ass. "I even bought her a ring. It was $60, but she never knew."

Next comes a big teddy bear named Fernando. This 24-year-old in an XXXL size Type O Negative T-shirt has a ton of untapped love buried beneath his fleshy skin.

He chooses a heart emblazoned with "Love Bird."

"I once called a longtime friend 'Crystal Ball' because I saw her in my future," he says. "I had a huge crush on her, and one Valentine's Day, I actually worked up the nerve to ask her out. We went out, had a great time, and at the end of the night, when I moved in for a kiss, she told me she was a lesbian."

This is no fetish fest. It's a gothic dance party filled with the kinds of kids from high school who wrote suicidal poems over coffee at Denny's and used lunch boxes as purses. So it's on to Cutler Bay Sports Bar and Grill (20305 Old Cutler Rd., Cutler Bay), where men in football jerseys clutch amber pints at two U-shaped bars. And although they appear far less forlorn, it soon becomes clear they have suffered their fair share of anguish.

Take for instance, Hector, a short, pit-bullish man with soft brown eyes, a freshly shaved head, and a huge cast on his left leg. "Last Valentine's Day, I decided to go all out for my girlfriend. I filled the house with balloons and flowers and decided to surprise her with an intimate home-cooked meal. I was almost done with everything when I realized I had forgotten wine, so I hopped on my motorcycle, and while I was driving to the store, some girl who was text-messaging while she was driving hit me and ran over my leg."

OMG!

Next I meet Lauren, a saucy brunette in low-rise jeans that supply a tiny glimpse of a tattoo on her lower abdomen. She fishes out "Wild Thing."

"I used to be a lot crazier before I started dating my boyfriend," she admits. "Like, I used to go to Fantasy Fest naked and get my body painted. This one year, I got painted as a Dalmatian, when the artist started groping me towards the end..."

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