Flowers, chocolates and cakes. What’s the big fuss about Valentine’s Day? It doesn’t really change anything, does it? You do everything the way you are supposed to do. Flowers blossom the way they are supposed to; they don’t change shape or color just because it’s a special day. You look just the same in the mirror, your face mature, your beard all scraggly, a head full of graying hair, the mole on your cheek that had been there for 48 years. What’s different then? Nothing. There is no possibility of something happening that would make your day, is there?
You turn behind and watch your wife sleeping, all serene-looking, without a worry in the world. Why would she? She doesn’t remember to take out the trash. She forgets if she had eaten her breakfast. Will she remember that some twenty-four years before, you met her on this day? Oh, you must be a fool to expect that. All right, all right, don’t be so cynical about it. It’s not her fault that she has got Alzheimer’s.
It’s now seven in the morning. You make some coffee and then pancakes. After eating two of them with maple syrup, you leave two for your wife. You don’t know if you should wake her up. Your son and daughter are not home. The maid won’t come before nine. You leave for work. You reach your office. Balloons and ribbons and flowers, they have done it all. You don’t feel a thing. You sit down and start working. You attend meetings. You call your house to check on the maid.
Mobiles ring around you. Try to respond to people who wish you good morning. Try to relax your facial muscles a little bit. Smile and act up, although deep inside you know nothing has changed just because this date has got a name of its own.
The young Indian girl next to you receives a musical bug. She looks happy. This day means something to her. Even the idol of that deity with a flute between his lips looks happy. That’s Hindu God Krishna, who played that damn flute and all the women in his neighborhood just ran to him and then they danced all night. Of course he will be happy around Valentine’s Day.
It’s evening. You walk to your car. Start the engine. Look out for people. They all have plans. They are not like you. You reach the Silver lake state park. So, Lake Michigan, again? That’s where you go when you don’t have anything to do. There is a young man, in a blue shirt saying something to a blonde girl. The girl’s face is not visible to you.
A chilly wind starts blowing. There are ripples in lake. There will always be ripples somewhere in the lake. Ripples are here to stay just like the fact that your wife won’t ever be the same. The thought makes you helpless. You take care of her for sure. You love her even though she does not know. You feed her lots of times. Sometimes she asks you to rent a movie. You go and rent it right away. You sit down and watch it together, all the while thinking if she is going to remember it tomorrow. It’s not that she doesn’t recognize you because she does. Sometimes she smiles at you, the way she did when you first time met her, when you were head over heels with everything she did. But she is losing it, one piece at a time. She is going away and you can’t do a damn thing about it. It’s like someone hammers your heart and the size of it will get bigger each day.
The couple by the lake are all over each other. The girl is beautiful, now that you can see her face. She is kissing the guy. You think about your first kiss with your wife. You remember it, don’t you? So what she had forgotten all about it. You have not. That’s what matters.
It’s seven in the evening now. The guy is taking the girl in his arms. She smiles softly. When did you last sleep with your wife? Now, that’s a thought. You could have an affair, see someone else. No, you won’t do that. You can’t cheat.
It’s getting darker. It’s time to leave.
A group of men and women nearby are talking about some movie, supposedly romantic, that was released today. Someone is playing endless love out their car window. The lyric gets inside your head. The words don’t fit somehow.
You start driving. The moon is up, round and white, as always. Nothing has changed. People have two eyes and a nose. You reach your house. Your daughter is not back yet. You go to the backyard where you sometimes barbeque, and find your wife sitting by the pool. She looks at you, her big brown eyes still. She comes to you and kisses you on lips. It’s so sudden. You never imagined it.
‘Happy Valentine’s Day, John.’ she says.
Your heart aches. A big tear wells up in your eye, and before you know, tears break free and run down your cheeks. She hugs you. You put your arms around her. Grown men don’t cry, you remember it all the time; nevertheless you can’t stop the tears. Something is different about today, you feel it now.
She is not going to be better next week, next month or next year. You know all that. You are going to take it one day at a time. Still, in your head, endless love keeps playing and the words start fitting together. You kiss her back.
Originally published in ‘Something to take with you’ anthology