One Night in February
St Valentine. Patron saint of romantic bullshit.
Or greeting cards, take your pick.
He walks down the street with his hands firmly in his pockets, protected from the icy wind funnelling down between the tall buildings that line up like sentries before him. Couples lost in their little worlds walk by arm in arm, scrunched up together for warmth but still smiling in the face of the harsh winter chill. That was us last year he thinks to himself as he hits the button at the pedestrian crossing. The light turns green but he remains motionless. He sees himself, with her, crossing the road, coming towards him. She’s smiling and looking up at him as he leads her across. A bump on the shoulder from a passing stranger brings him back to now. The lights have turned red again so he hits the button and waits.
It’s getting late so he goes to find some food. He doesn’t care what or where. It’s just fuel to him at the moment. Eating first makes the hangovers bearable. He walks into the lobby of a small restaurant where the girl approaches him wearing that painted on smile that screams “Tip me”. The smile drops when he requests a table, no he hasn’t reserved, yes he’s alone and no, no one is joining him. He leaves quietly and heads to the taco van a couple of blocks away, stopping at a liquor store on the way.
He remembers the Christmas card, and the hangover. That was the last he’d heard from her. He could guess what she was doing tonight. With Him. Her new man had probably pulled out all the stops for her. Chocolates, roses and fancy restaurant. St Valentine. Patron saint of romantic bullshit. Or greeting cards, take your pick.
He orders his dinner and looks around at the couples passing by either to or from a romantic meal, maybe from the cinema or just going home for the customary romp between the sheets. How many kids are conceived on this night of the year? He hears a voice,
“How are you tonight?”
He looks behind him, looking for the person this girl is talking to. Realising she must have addressed him, he manages a sheepish smile.