And so, because it was Valentine’s Day weekend, I gave my used dress socks a couple days off and masturbated into much more festive indulgences: microwaved salami slices, honeydew melons left out to room temperature, a paper towel roll whose insides had been coated with liverwurst. I left work early to buy flowers for myself—tulips, my favorite, even though they were out of season—and wore a dinner jacket and tie around the house at night. I threw my boxers into the dryer for a few moments just to feel that new laundry warmth hugging my pelvis, and liked it so much I didn’t feel the need to add pants. To the lulling pulses of Vivaldi and Puccini, I ate my meals standing up over the sink, a lit candelabra on the counter to my right. When I went to run errands, I left my Toyota Camry in the garage and splurged on a horse drawn carriage ride, complete with charming Irish cabby, for my trip to Costco. I asked to take the long way through the park.
Walking along the aisles of Costco, searching for economy-sized packs of salami, I felt an immense swell of holiday spirit such that I was reminded how long it had been since I last felt so jolly. The pre-puberty Christmases of my childhood, maybe. Perhaps the Easter I received one and a half chocolate bunnies, after my brother got sick on his. After gathering my supplies, I was happy beyond words to discover a vacant Self-Service Checkout Station, bypassing the blue-smocked cashiers clawing at their blackheads.
By Sunday, when the mail stopped coming, I was resigned to the fact that there would be no Valentine’s Day cards this year. There hadn’t been any cards in the previous years either, going as far back as late grade school, but this year seemed different. I missed the maxims of unromantic love that would accompany a heart-shaped cardboard cutout taped to a piece of undesirable taffy or hard candy. “Hope your Valentine’s Day rocks!” or “Be my Valentine!”, a phrase which, quite uniquely, gains in meaning and severity the farther out you are from adolescence. There was no one to blame but myself, I suppose, for the lingering disappointment I felt passing by my pile of junk mail and unopened bills, since I had never sent a Valentine’s Day card in my life. And though I spent chunks of that day considering the absurdity that I had sent dozens of cards in my lifetime for all sorts of reasons covering sickness, birthdays, and babies, and had never once sent a card out in the name of something so universally wholesome as unspecific love, still, I’m sad to say, I realized that there was no guarantee that I would be sending any Valentine’s Day cards come the following year.
Now, it being Monday and the weekend a distant memory, I’m home from my day at work and standing by the front window, drinking a light beer and looking out onto the street. I’m waiting for the trash bags filled with paper hearts, candy wrappers, undernourished flowers, and all the other materials of weekend love to crowd the sidewalk like the browning Christmas trees of early January. Tomorrow, during my lunch break, I’ll stop by the supermarket and sweep up my annual armload of discount Valentine’s candy left unbought. And if they’re within sight of the candy, and similarly discounted, I suppose I might even pick up a box of generic red Valentine’s Day cards and leave them on a shelf where I can find them or lose them as I see fit come next February.
by Jean-Luc Bouchard ’14
Jean-Luc Bouchard ’14 is a writer living in New York City and a graduate of Vassar College, where he studied English, Music, and Asian Studies. When not typing or sleeping, he performs stand-up comedy, plays piano, admires unreliable narrators, and drinks too much coffee. His fiction has been published in the literary magazines Specter, Umbrella Factory, 100 Word Story, Danse Macabre, ExFic, Helicon, and Eastlit, and he is the winner of Blotterature Magazine’s “50 Words” contest for June 2014. See http://jeanlucbouchard.com.
“Holiday” is one of the many stories in the Fall ’13/Spring 14 Issue, which you can find under “Current Issue.”