Coming into the category of the almost senior citizens, the husband and I had the Valentines Day talk a few days before the actual day. A lot of the talk was one sided, the spouse contributing to his side of the conversation with a series of non commital, non incriminating grunts engineered to sound aboslutely neutral and unthrow-back at him in the future in the event of any argument. This comes from being married for 15 years and dating for six years before the marriage. You get all your defence mechanisms down pat. Like I know the exact point in an argument when I need to quietly siddle out of the room just as the man’s nostrils start flaring and steam starts emanating from them, if I want to live to see another day.
Anyway, the discussion began with me informing the spouse that a friend had been booked into a spa by her husband for a day long session of treatments to be followed by a champagne dinner at a newly opened five star in the suburb we are located in. I was, naturally, in shades of green so resplendent I could have been glowing toxic waste. The man grunted. I then informed him about another friend who had been taken by her husband to the Tanishq showroom and let loose amongst the diamonds, and had returned home, sparkling from every angle so fiercely that sunglasses were recommended for direct viewing of her person, so as to prevent permanent damage to the retina. The man harrumphed again and continued his unblinking gaze directed towards the CNBC TV 18 on screen. At times, I am often concerned whether subliminal messages not targetted at me are being flashed on this screen, messages that go “Dont blink now, you will miss an important stock quotation if you do, and then you will curse yourself for the rest of your life…ad infinitum, ad nauseaum.” You know. I knew we were not going to celebrate Valentine’s Day again this year.
Our first Valentine Day was around a month after we met in college. This was the last year, and the last month of college. Strange, that we should spend five years in the same college and wind up locking glances and exchanging names in the last month. Fate? Fate was probably kicking us together time and again, everytime I watched him pass by and sighed with lovestruck angst, but would see his broad shoulders pass by without even registering me as a blip on his radar screen, while the college hotties draped themselves as decoration on his arms. Nope. I was not a college hottie. Therefore, us getting together was as remote as hell freezing over. Hell froze. Whatever. We began ‘going out’ from the day we met in Jan 1991. But were we a couple? Were we exclusive? Valentine’s Day comes loaded when you are in the la la land between exclusivity and dating. “Check what he gets you,” said my well meaning friends. “If it is something grand, you can be sure he’s serious.” Hmm, I thought, being totally raw at this game and its rules. No boyfriends. No dates. Nothing worth writing home about prior to this, except for long distance sighing and crushing on totally unsuitable types. What they didnt know, and what I didnt know too, was that this, the college stud, with the deadly physique and the killer looks, was in college on a sports scholarship. His father was dead, and his mother supported them on his father’s pension. He definitely did not have the funds to spring for a grand Valentines gift. I didnt know that. Well, I knew that technically but hadnt realised that funds were in short supply. Funds were in short supply at my end too. My mother worked at a bank as a clerk, a job she got on compassionate grounds when my father expired suddenly when I was nine. Her salary was barely enough to keep body and soul together. A friend helped me buy a bottle of Drakkar Noir for the man. I gift wrapped it excitedly, and picked up a cheesy card with many doves and hearts and ribbons on it, with everything except the words I Love You written on it. The day dawned. We met in college. We sat on the brick edging of the little green patch garden and he pulled out of his pocket an almost melted Dairy Milk and a card. The card had words I still remember, having read it so very often and committing the words to memory. It said, “I always knew I would meet someone special who would come into my life and make it complete. What I didnt know was how wonderful you would be and how very much I would love you.” It was messy eating that chocolate, but no chocolate has tasted as sweet. And yes, I’ve got gifts since. Big ticket items. Diamond sets. Swiss watches. A house. Luxury handbags. But nothing has come close to the joy of that moment, licking the chocolate off my fingers.
And no, we didnt celebrate Valentines Day. We dont celebrate Valentine’s Day now. But every night, when I sleep, holding my little boy and feeling the strength of the man’s arm under my head, I know I am blessed. You dont need a card and a gift to know you are loved. You know you are.