Rows and rows of cards. How can anyone choose? I’m forty, and I’ve never purchased a Valentine’s Day card in my life. My friends tell me I have “commitment” issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of girlfriends, believe me, and I’d like to get serious, but every time I get close, something seems to go wrong. It’s usually my fault. I have the knack for doing/saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Maybe this time it’ll be different.
Christie’s a fine girl. She’s never said she loves me, but she hasn’t said she doesn’t. I know she likes me around, but past that, I don’t know much about her inner workings. She’s an attorney and keeps her feelings close — her father is the same way. I met him once. He’s a widower. Nice enough guy. Acts a bit needy. I think he’s lonely, but he doesn’t seem to hate me — that’s always a plus.
Last week she said, “You know, the fourteenth is coming up.” At the time, I didn’t have a clue that Valentine’s Day was what she meant, but I smiled knowingly anyway. Problem was, even after I found out, I wasn’t sure what she intended by bringing it up. Was her statement lawyer-speak for “we should consider deepening our relationship on this occasion”, or was she just annotating an upcoming calendar event? How is a guy supposed to know? Doesn’t matter. If there’s one thing my forty years have taught me, it’s that women expect you to know. If you have to ask, you’re screwed, and I don’t want to mess up this time.
I digress… again.
Look at all these categories of cards: Religious — nope that won’t work; Wife — not hardly; Funny — maybe; Friend — we’re way past that; I don’t see a “Lover” category, that’s what I’d really like. Guess that’s a bit crass though for the Hallmark people.
Picking up one of the “Funny” category cards, I look inside. It shows two love birds sitting next to each other. The male-looking one says, “Since I don’t have arms to put around you, is it okay if we just snuggle?” That doesn’t seem funny to me, but then what do I know? I’ve never bought one of these cards before. Maybe that’s what people like.
I switch categories, looking at one from the “Girlfriend” collection. It’s cute, I guess. Expressing the sort of schmaltzy romanticism you’d expect. That’s not me. Besides, at the end it says, “I love you with all my heart”. That definitely goes over the line.
The longer I look, the more confused I get, so instead of trying to do this on my own, I decide to watch the other guys crowding around the display (women on the other side of the row are doing the same thing). One of them must certainly know how to pick a good card. I just need to follow their lead.
An older guy comes up, spends two minutes looking, and walks off with a card from the “Wife” category. I pick up the same card. It starts, “After all these years, I still feel that special something when….”
Brother. He probably gets that “special something” once a month.
Another guy comes up. A younger dude. This gives me hope. He searches and searches, spending a good six-eight minutes before making a choice. I look at the same card after he leaves. It begins, “The day we met was the best day of my life, and now….”
Jeez. That sounds desperate. I continue my vigil.
A middle-aged guy approaches, looking serious. I notice he isn’t searching the “Wife” category. This is more like it. He’s more like me: older, more circumspect. He picks up cards, puts them back, revisits a couple of them, and then finally chooses. I grab one almost before he leaves. It begins, “I’ve never been good about saying how much you mean to me….”
Talk about trite. This is going nowhere fast.
I’m about to give up, when out of the corner of my eye, who do I see? Christie. She’s looking at cards on the other side. I make myself inconspicuous, watching her from around the corner of the rack. After a few minutes, she chooses one, and heads off to the counter. What luck! I can see what she chose for me and get something that mirrors her sentiments.
She pays and leaves the store. I rush around the rack and pull out the identical card. On the outside is a photo of a couple walking down a moonlit beach holding hands. It says, “For you on Valentine’s Day.” Hands shaking, I open the card. Inside it says, “No matter what happens in our lives, no matter how things may change, I’ll always be here for you.”
So that’s it! She wants to be with me, but understands the nature of our relationship as “evolving”. It’s not to the “love” stage… yet. I can live with that.
I go back to the cards and pick out one that says almost the same thing, along with a nice box of candy appropriate to the sentiment.
Valentine’s Day — Christie’s apartment.
When I come in, I find her father putting on his coat. I hide my box of candy behind my back. “Hi, Jeff,” he says, “just about to leave.” He turns and gives Christie a peck on the cheek. “Thanks for lunch, sweetie, and thanks for this.” He flashes a Valentine’s Day card in front of her. “It means a lot.”
The familiar card has a photo of a couple walking on the beach in the moonlight.
My eyes catch sight of a large, wrapped box on the kitchen table. An imposing red envelope is propped up against the side. On the surface, she’s printed, “To my love.”
Once again, I’m a dead man.
James C.G. Shirk lives between the Cascades and the Olympic mountain ranges, in the beautiful Great Northwest, where he writes various genre short stories that tend to get published and labors on novels that satisfy him (if no one else).