I’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day and have been terrified by it for years. The strongest memory I have of it is since I was fifteen and my first love cheated on me.
Ten years older than me and a lieutenant, he was living in another town. He came to see me the day before Valentine’s and the next day I had to go to an English contest in the county capital. So he said he was going into the mountains to ski because he was training for an international competition.
“I’ll be back tonight!” he told me that morning in the bus stop and kissed me before I got on the couch and we went our separate ways. Forever.
I waited and waited and waited. We had no phones back then and no computers. There was no way of getting in touch. It was Saturday. On Monday I asked my neighbors on the ground floor to allow me to use their landline to call his mother, thinking he might be dead or something. I was in love head over heels, we were planning to have kids when I grew up and he said he loved me, so not showing up that night meant he was either dead or unconscious in the forest or in the hospital.
“He left, darling. Yesterday.” his mother said.
I was surprised to see I could get out of my neighbors’ apartment and back to my room. I knew for sure I was not dead because everything hurt. No explanation. No idea. No way to get in touch except letters. I decided to wait. Actually, I don’t remember if it was so much a decision I made or just the only thing I could do since I was unable to do anything else, really.
A few days later he called my neighbors’ phone number. I hated the weight of the receiver pressing against my ear, resting in the sweaty palm of my hand, smearing grease and dust and filth on my skin. I later had to rub everything off with a sponge. Still, the ghost of it was hard to banish. It stuck to me like a leech. Made me rub my ear and palm so much they became red and hot. My right side was burning.
“Something happened…” he said in the same voice I had loved with all my heart. “I met someone”, the lips that had kissed every inch of my teenage body continued. “I am sorry. I never wanted to hurt you…”
I cannot reply. My neck is broken in his fist. No air can go through. No words can come out. Kneeling next to the bedside cabinet where the phone is, the fifteen year old who had only lost her virginity to this man two or three weeks before, is dead. Never again would she get up and walk out of that living room in her neighbors’ ground floor apartment. The ghost that does get up and leave is trembling all over and cannot breathe. She keeps staring at her sweaty hands shaking uncontrollably.
In the meantime, I miraculously managed to get over all that. Well, countless hours of regressions, homeopathy and energy work helped a lot. We even met a few years ago, me and him, and made peace and then continued on our separate ways. And here I am, twenty years later. I hated this time of year for twenty long years and was always expecting something to go terribly wrong.
This year I decided I want it. I want Valentine’s Day. This morning I woke up in the arms of the man that I love. He’s far from being flawless. We have that in common. But I made the decision to believe again. For years I have been criticizing Valentine’s Day for being such a superficial and commercial holiday. Well, life itself is commercial. The media educates us into believing we need so much stuff. Ultimately, Valentine’s Day, just like any other day of our lives, is what each of us decides to make of it. I have decided to step out of the drama and the sarcasm and the superiority complex. I have decided to celebrate it and celebrate joy and life. Am I afraid? Terrified… Does that stop me? Not a chance!