“For this was sent on Saint Valentine’s day
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate”
The mail came early that day or at least earlier than his regular mailman usually delivered the mail. The mailbox was stuffed but standing apart from the white legal envelopes and assorted junk mail was an oversized pink envelope with deep crimson script scrawled across the front. The writing, the stamp and even the return address melded into a distinctive pattern, a pattern he was familiar with.
He shut the door quietly. It was grey outside and damp. Not cold but not warm. Not great but not bad either, a twilight zone of climate. He walked towards the back of the house into his study where the morning fire, set earlier, had warmed the brightly lit room.
The pink envelope glowed in the light of the many lamps placed around the five-sided room. He needed a minute to recover from its aura. He wanted to tear it open but instead, he paused before the oval mirror set between the towering bookcases on the north wall.
He liked what he saw. He worked on his look not because he was concerned about what others thought but because he wanted to appear like a work of art, not drab and mundane but jaunty and sophisticated. Someone who looks well attended to especially at his age. Plus, his look fit easily into his loosely knit but loyal group. Being a part of a group keeps you steady. You can trust the group to tell you the truth. The group is honest when you are about to take on a new lover, or invest your money in a dicey prospect, or better still the group will threaten you with an intervention when you are standing on the brink of a tragic consequence and suggest rehab when your vices get the better of you. .
This Valentine’s Day card was a new occurrence. She was not a part of the group but existed as a separate satellite. When they met over a year and a half ago, she was married and unfulfilled. He thought she was fabulous and she, well at first he didn’t know what she thought. That particular night they danced a tango, very well together. Their bodies fit perfectly and when he signaled his moves with a slight touch on her back, she responded with ease.
After that initial contact she disappeared and he was busy traveling. And then she sent him the first Valentine card, the pink envelope, the crimson ink which made a pattern so that if you squinted spelled out her initials discernable after a pause. He sat down at his desk took a deep breath and held up the pink envelope with the crimson ink. A smile, a deep smile broke out on his face. It felt so good to have this sweet emotion. That someone like her could actually care about him enough to send a declaration of love. He sat back, held the envelope an arms distance away and turned it over and over in his hands like a man enjoying the feel of a valued possession.
Since their first encounter they had rarely spoken and nothing happened between them except an occasional meeting but when they did meet, conversation flowed easily like when old friends run into each other, and their renew their relationship right where they left off. But to both of them the greatest joy was the pleasure of discovery was that newness of “I know you but I don’t really know you and yet there is so much to discover, so much to look forward to.”
Her last Valentine had taken him by surprise. He never cared for sentimentality, pragmatic by nature he was viewed by some as a cold fish as someone who might be fun to hang out with but he rarely hung out, most only got a glimpse of his true nature. He cultivated that image which went along with his carefully constructed outer self. His hair was a focal point. People admired it and he liked the remarks, the double takes and the whispers. His uniform: jeans, shirt, jacket hoodie, shoes in soft colors and warm fabrics reflected his inner self turned outward.
He stared at the pink envelope with its crimson writing that made a pattern that he could decipher when he squinted his eyes. Yes, this is just what he needed to brighten up his day. It’s not that his life was so bad just stagnant. A life set in its ways. The group, however, produced enough drama for ten people or rather nine people. He had found out the hard way that he had to keep his innermost desires and conflicts under the radar away from the group. The last time he had let his guard down his confessed affair had been tossed about, discussed and tutted over for almost a year.
A few of the group had taken his side laughing at his foibles, glad the drama was happening to him and not themselves. Some he disappointed in his inability to think and feel like they did. The best part was that these were all old friends, friends who sometimes screwed up or made bad decisions, who sometimes cried for some of their own bad decisions, and still lived with the pain. He didn’t feel, sad and full of regrets or lucky and fortunate. At this point in his life, he had been feeling a bit like Dorian Gray when he became bored with living an ordinary life and made his fateful decision to sign up with the devil.
The envelope represented a window into another world a sweet unknown, an unrequited love, unused and fragile. He turned the pink envelope with the crimson letters that ciphered her name, over and opened the licked flap. He slid the pink card from its envelope and opened it. The photo attached to the card was a simple wreath of violets shaped like a heart. He sighed, closed his eyes and smiled.