Monday, February 15, 2010

A Valentine’s Tale

Valentine's Day. It's the sort of day I don't usually notice. If I do, I might snort at the advertising in the shops and make some curt comment about the greeting card holiday. But this week I'm in the US, Boston to be precise, and Valentine's Day is BIG. There are hearts everywhere; women are walking around with flowers and balloons; romantic music is drifting through the square opposite our hotel. People are lining up to have their photograph taken in front of an eight foot high Perspex heart. Horse drawn carriages circulate, couples snuggled inside sipping champagne. They are visible from our hotel room; my girls are glued to the window. The youngest is neighing.

As usual, my partner and I did our best to ignore the day. But the square has free WiFi and I'm wandering far from home, so I went down in the cold to check my emails. I was sitting on a concrete bench, hunched over my laptop while my tail froze solid, when a young man slid into my peripheral vision brandishing a single long-stemmed red rose. I looked up.

'I saw you; this is for you,' he said, smiling. I stared, flabbergasted. Then, because I am an unromantic cynic, I asked him what it was for. 'It's Valentine's Day!' he said, looking at me like I was an idiot. Then he smiled again, handed over the rose, and wandered off.

I was so startled, I laid it down beside me and kept on with the emails. Perhaps I thought I imagined it. After all, I've been married almost ten years now. I'm in my mid thirties, I've borne three children, and I'm always tired. Nice crinkles are developing around my eyes, but stronger, more obstinate lines mark my mouth. I'm getting a little grey. My hair is cropped unfashionably short and I don't even own any makeup, let alone use it. Since we've been travelling I've put on weight, my skin has dried out and I need a haircut. Also, I have a pimple on my bottom.

Other than this totally random pimple, I'm not ugly, but I don't use the usual feminine markers of attractiveness: long hair, pretty clothes, delicate jewellery. The world treats me accordingly. Much of the time I am invisible, particularly when I'm with the kids. No one checks me out, and I'm quite fine with that. There's not an ounce of flirt in me. Whenever I hear that some shockingly high proportion of people have extramarital affairs, I'm amazed. I'm so far off the market that I just don't get it. My husband maintains I'm the least romantic person he's ever met and I'm the last person you'd give a single red rose to – although he delights me with tiger lilies from time to time.

So I couldn't quite believe what had happened. But the rose still lay there on the bench and, whenever I glanced at it, seemed real enough. I finished my emails, picked it up, and sniffed. It smelled of nothing. Those Valentine's roses have no scent, and it's a crying shame.

But its petals were blood red, and soft as velvet. I stroked it against my cheek, remembering how delightful it is to be noticed. And a little voice cried out exultantly, See! You're not past it! Maybe you're more attractive than you realise!

– and then I was horrified. I asked the rose, Am I insufferably vain? And what on earth am I going to tell my husband?

I felt slightly guilty about this odd encounter: had I sent off an improper signal, staring into my computer in the freezing cold? And what did it mean and why didn't the guy stay and talk and what is this American culture anyway?

The rose was silent, silent and beautiful.

My frozen tush demanded I cut short my musings, and the surprising young man was long gone. So I gathered my things, picked up the rose again, and wandered back through the Valentine's throng to the one who loves me best, the one who knows about the self-doubt and the frown lines and the plain clothes and the pimple, the one who still wants to grab my butt anyway.

PS - Monday morning, I happened to walk past the giant Perspex heart again. In the absence of crowds I realised it was, in fact, an ice sculpture - heart, velvet-cushioned throne, balustrades, urns, vases and giant cupids. Wow!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story. Enough to melt the cynic in us all. Love Suzy xx


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...