February 14, 2005

Just Call Me Sergeant Pepper

Today's Musical Selection: "Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills

Hello, friends! And Happy Valentine's Day! I hope it is, anyway... I understand that it's a time of high stress and/or depression for a lot of people, coupled and uncoupled alike. Some people like to rail against this holiday, on the grounds that its primary purpose is to shake down those in established relationships, and shame those not in them. Deep down, I think all of us feel a little like Charlie Brown, waiting by the mailbox for that valentine from the little red-headed girl.

I know it was a fairly gloomy Valentine's Day for me. It was a cold, drizzly, foggy day in the Fedroplex, the kind of day that calls you to crawl back under the covers and hibernate. And for the first time in several years, I had no one to celebrate with. And the lady who sits next to me at work received a beautiful bouquet from her husband, a dozen red roses, which I got to look at all day. I saw other bouquets being shuttled through the office. But I didn't have anyone to send me flowers, no one to call me, no one to send a card. (And I had to work through lunch, so I couldn't even go say hello to my waitress.) I'm not one much for self-pity, but it's hard not to think of it when Valentine's Day is staring you in the face that way.

But even though the holiday is over-commercialized, over-romanticized, and generally overdone, the spirit of the day can shine through sometimes. And in order to snap out of my V-Day funk, I thought back to the time when I learned when the day can really mean, and that love can take many forms.

It was junior year in high school, on a sloppy, drizzly Valentine's Day much like this one. The primary actors in this little drama are myself and my friend Kim, whom some of you may remember at the rose-giving heroine of my Christmas story. For those who don't remember: she was bright, wickedly funny, thoughtful, understanding the human condition... in short, everything you could want out of a female friend. As Valentine's Day dawned, she was dating a senior and I was, again, alone. As was her wont, she was too thoughtful to gush about her boyfriend in front of me, but in response to previous queries, she'd indicated that she was looking forward to Valentine's Day, as she was sure her man had planned something thoughtful and sensitive. I was happy for her.

Came then the day, and there we were in first-period history class, discussing the Civil War. I was sitting next to Kim, and I noticed that something was amiss. Namely, she kept sniffling and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. I asked her if everything was all right, and she assured me that it was. I had trouble believing this, however, as the sniffling and dabbing was not normal procedure for her, and she hadn't seemed to be harboring a cold the previous day. But I let it be, and when class was out I left to get a drink of water.

And there, leaned up against a locker near the water fountain, I found Kim. Crying copiously. She looked up, and one glance at her tear-streaked face told the story. And so I acted. By instinct, I held out my arms to hear, and she collapsed into my embrace. I leaned against the wall and held her and let her sob for a while.

Finally I asked, "What is it?"

The story emerged between the sobs. "I waited. By my locker. He went by. Didn't even. Look at me. Valentine's Day. And he ignored me."

I said, "I'm sorry. I can't believe he did that."

"We've been fighting. But on Valentine's Day. Didn't say anything." She buried her face in my sweater.

"What an awful thing. I know how you feel. This hasn't been the best Valentine's Day for me either."

I heard her muffled voice against my chest. "Stupid holiday. Just makes people. Feel bad about. Their relationships."

"And it makes them feel bad for not having relationships too." That was the last thing either of us said for a while. I let her cry herself out. She eventually straightened herself up, dried her eyes, and regained her familiar composure. Once again, she showed her brave face to the world. Nonetheless, I walked her to her second-period class, just to make sure the facade held. It did.

Now, by your usual objective standards, Valentine's Day was a failure for us both. Neither of us received any cards or flowers or candy. She was ignored by her beloved, and I was without one. But I rank it as a successful day, and I'll bet Kim would too. But if the true point of Valentine's Day is to be loved and to share your love with the people you care about, we were and we did. And that kind of love may not come attached with a dozen roses or candy hearts with cutesy sayings on them, but it's no less genuine for being unmarketable. Sometimes, through the cloud of Valentine commercialism, real love finds its way through.

Kim and I drifted after high school. We didn't keep in touch, moved around, the usual song and dance. I hear she's married now, which sounds right and proper. But as I sat at my desk looking at my co-worker's flowers, I thought of Kim. And I knew that, if she found me sighing at my desk, she'd return the hug I gave her. That's the sort of person she is. And knowing that, in and of itself, made the day better. So, Kim, thanks for saving my Valentine's Day without knowing it. I think we're even now.

And for you, The Reader, I hope you've had the Valentine's Day you hoped for. If not... well, join the club. On the other hand, I believe everyone should receive roses for Valentine's Day. Therefore, in that spirit, I offer you all a bouquet from me:


Happy Valentine's Day! See you next time.

Posted by Fred at February 14, 2005 10:56 PM
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