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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A VALENTINE MEMOIR


APHRODITE’S ARROW
A quick-silver spark
like a diamond’s prism
strikes me.
Aphrodite’s silver arrow
turns this cafe bar
into the galaxy.
Reality escapes me.
Fleeting,
swift,
it hits its mark,
sets aflame
the dark night
of my heart.
Written in the Latin Quarter one romantic night.
Given the fact that this Gemini is such a romantic one would think that St. Valentine's Day would hold a special meaning and be celebrated with romantic relish. Not so for me, not for a long time anyway (though somewhere in my heart I hold out some vague glimmer of hope that for once it might prove different.) Instead, for me, a single woman, it's become a more 'dreaded' celebration than New Years, at night which I've learned to cope with, even spending a few N.Yrs. Eves home alone enjoying my solitude.
Looking back to my childhood, Valentine's Day was a time to make pretty cards for friends. I still remember one time when I was home sick in bed, and I spent hours of convalesence cutting, colouring and pasting hearts to take to my school mates. But I always, even then, had some dread that I wouldn't receive any cards myself (though I must have). When I was a daycare supervisor, we always made sure the children had name lists so that no child would be left out when the cards were handed around. I think the last Valentine's Days that I remember as happy events, were the Daycare years.
A long time ago, when I was married, my husband always remembered the day with flowers and gifts. Since that time, though, my memories of Valentine's Day have not held any particular outstanding remembrances. Except for one, sixteen years ago.
I had recently had a surprising reunion with a man who had been my teen-age love. It had seemed exciting and romantic at first, but within weeks the truth about him and his long years of addiction came out. Although he kept professing to be "Born Again" and vowing he'd never again "use", this soon proved to be a line designed to entice me. I saw very quickly that he was obsessive, dependant and dangerous. We had planned a party the weekend before Valentine's Day and by that time it was too late to cancel it. But I knew that somehow I was going to have to show him the gate, quickly, before things got seriously out of hand.
Valentine's Day followed and we had plans to go out for dinner. I didn't want to go and when there was a sudden severe snowstorm that day I felt relieved. He lived out in the suburbs. There was no way he'd be able to drive into town. No buses were running. The snow was a foot deep. I had to walk all the home from work which took me some time. But when I got there, who was parked in front of my apartment but him! Heaven knows how he drove all that way in the storm. He was an incompetent and dangerous driver at the best of time. I was actually furious at him. There was no food in the fridge -- at least not appropriate food for a Valentine's Day dinner, as we'd planned to go out. Now we were stuck there in my apartment while I fumed and tried to figure out the best way to break the news to him that I didn't want to see him again.
Meanwhile, he produced a number of extravagent gifts for me. A huge Valentine's card (at least a foot in height with a soppy verse in it); a gold filigree cross (which he later admitted buying me to impress my Baptist minister father who had never approved of him), some chocolates, probably some roses and a large sum of money. I thought to give him back the money but the previous weekend at the party he had ruined my new answering machine by spilling wine over it so I figured the money was the least he could do to replace it.
I can't remember how I got through the rest of that Valentine's Day. It was horrible. Needless to say, by the end of that week he was out of my life (along with all his belongings which he had been bit-by-bit moving into my apartment.)
Now when I think of Valentine's Day that seems to be my most vivid memory. Not a nice one,
however there haven't been any memorable Valentine's Days since then, perhaps once, a couple of years ago, when Anibal, the object of my affections, fantasies and obsession and I were exchanging e-mails and poetic notes. I recall he made a special point to dance a bolero with me. That was romantic. Since then though, there hasn't been anything 'romantic' happen. No roses, no cards, no dinner invitations. And now even Anibal, my love, has gone. So this Valentine's Day seems particularly nostalgic.
The whole concept of the day has, like Christmas, and Hallowe'en, turning into a commercialized celebration and seems to have lost it's meaning.
Centuries ago, St. Valentine, imprisoned , sent his friends notes to tell them that he loved him.
That's what it's all about. Telling your friends and partners, that you love them. But shouldn't we be doing that more often, not just on St. Valentine's Day?
In spite of the lack of romance this days brings me, I'll always remember to send my friends loving notes, sometimes romantic, sometimes funny Valentines. I've receive some myself, mostly email messages but nevertheless loving thoughts. (My son just called and said he was dropping by tomorrow with my Valentine card -- he's been driving the chocolate truck and he's been busy for this holiday -- but he always remembers the tradition.).
Because I don't have a romatnic interest to bring me chocolates (I'm on a diet anyway), or flowers...I bought myself a little pot of tiny red roses. I set them on the shelf by Anibal's picture. Tonight I'll light a candle for him, and have a glass of the New Zealand wine I won at the art exhibit reception the other day. And I'll remember all those loved ones who have departed and those who have graced my life over the years.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you!
A tradition verse written in Valentine's Day cards

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