In my early twenties I went through a devastating break up around Christmas and was still reeling when February rolled around. I made it through a particularly bleak Valentine’s Day with no word from secret admirers, invisible friends, or my Ex whom, for all intents and purposes, had quite happily moved on.
That spring I was riding my bicycle into town and noticed an acquaintance of my Ex standing on the corner. He was a slightly older, New Age kind of guy with a live-in girlfriend who burned incense and wore colorful hand knitted socks from Nepal.
He was waving at me to stop. I hadn’t seen him since before my break up and I pulled over to the sidewalk. He told me that he had been sorry to hear about the split and that he had something for me. He’d been carrying it around for weeks, hoping to bump into me. With a grin, he opened up his backpack and pulled out a gnarled rice paper envelope with my name on it. “For you,” he said. “Have a good life,” he called as he walked away.
He had made me a Valentine’s card, and it meant the world to me. It was decorated with a collage of exotic postage stamps and red and black calligraphy. Inside he’d copied out a pithy little quote from Confucius expressing something about inner light. Apparently he had been concerned about my well being.
I bumped into him outside a grocery store some 20 years later. He wasn’t panhandling; he was just standing there passing time. We went to the restaurant across the street and caught up. The years since our last meeting had taken a toll on him. He was craggy looking, his face was deeply lined and it looked like he’d been having a struggle with substance abuse issues, maybe he’d even had a stint or two on the streets. I didn’t pry. He and his old girlfriend were having a long distance relationship, he said, now that she was working on her Doctorate back East.
When we parted I thanked him for his kindness and empathy, and for making me that card at a time when I had needed one most. “No problem,” he answered, “I knew you’d be happy.”
Crop From ‘Calligrafie, Jan Van De Velde (1605)’ – Public Domain