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LAce Posted Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Valentine Cubicle
Miriam N. Kotzin

Now I know why you shouldn’t date someone at work.

For years I dreaded Valentine’s Day. Drug store card racks are devoted to Valentines starting on December 26. Everywhere I went I saw red hearts and lace and teddy bears holding heart-shaped pillows. Valentines were for other girls, girls with boyfriends.

This year was even worse. I saw the same red hearts and lace and teddy bears, but this year I didn’t know what to do. Before I’d just look the other way and wait for the heart-shaped boxes of candy to go on half-price sale. But this year I agonized over whether of not to get Lewis a card, and if so, what sort.

I eliminated the mushy ones right away. If I were Lewis and I got a card professing undying love, I’d run the other direction. But the smutty cards were just awful. And the funny cards were too cute. I wasn’t about to get him a card with a puppy or a kitten on it. I finally found one that said, “February 14 comes every year, but (and then you open the card) this year is Valentine’s Day.” Great, I thought, absolutely neutral. Nothing about friendship, love, or--heaven forbid--marriage. Not a single cupid or kitten on this card.

So I bought the card, and put his name on it, and didn’t get him a present even though I saw a tie that would look great with his eyes. I put the card in my pocketbook so that if I got a one from him, I'd be able to give it to him. Safe.

How can a phone not ringing make so much noise? Lewis didn’t say anything about getting together for Valentine’s Day when I saw him on Saturday night. All day Sunday I waited for his call. Nothing.

I got to work, and I thought maybe I’d find a card and a rose on my desk. Nothing. He didn’t call in the morning. At lunch the girls asked what we were doing tonight. I wanted to crawl under the table.

The whole day passed with no phone call and no card. There’s no more Monday Night Football, but he didn’t call that night either.

I hate Valentine’s Day.

Is this is a cruel way of dumping me, just disappearing?

When I washed my hair I sang the song from South Pacific. In a few months I’ll be just as good as new.

This morning I threw out the card I’d bought him. I tore it into tiny bits and put it in the trash. That felt kind of good.

The candy will go on sale this week. But I’m not going to buy any. What’s the point?

When I got to work Wednesday, on my desk I found a big heart-shaped box with a card in a huge red envelope. I opened the card, it said, "February 14 comes every year, but (and then you open the card) this year is Valentine’s Day.” It was just like the one I’d got for him, but bigger, much bigger.

And in Lewis’ handwriting: “And I’m such a jerk. Somehow I missed it. I didn’t know it was Valentine’s Day. I love you. Please forgive me.”

I stared at the card. “I love you.” He’d never said that before, and here it is. In writing. It was tucked in with other words, but it was there all right.

I reached for the phone, but before I could pick it up, it rang. I hoped it would be Lewis, but it was my boss who had a big project that needed my attention—and required a trip to the University.

I called Lewis using my cell phone, but he was on voice mail. I just said, “Thank you.” He’s so paranoid about company voice mail and private messages. He says they keep them on file for five years for legal reasons. I left it to him to figure out the rest.

I had to leave the candy on my desk, and the card, too. It was so big that it wouldn’t fit into my pocketbook!

Because I was meeting Stacey at the gym for yoga class, I didn’t have time to go back to the office. Stacey wanted to go out after class, but I just wanted to get home so that I could call Lewis.

I couldn’t reach him. I sent him an email saying, "Hi" with a smiley, but he didn’t respond. Funny.

Thursday when I got to work the box and the card weren’t on my desk. I asked around but nobody knew what happened to them. Should I have asked Stacey to bring them to class? That hadn’t seemed right to me. Who took them? Who has the candy? More important, who has the card?

And Lewis hasn’t returned my email or my call. What’s happening? Does he think this is funny?

I don’t know if I’m seeing Lewis at all this weekend. And just this week he sent me a card, and he said he loves me.

I still hate Valentine’s Day.

I decided that I didn’t want to let things drag on. I went over to the IT department and walked in. The guys stared at me and kind of exchanged looks as if to say, "Unh oh. It’s going to hit the fan."

I’ve never been in a men’s locker room but I think it would smell like that IT room. What do they do in there, play basketball?

The guys all left, saying, "excuse me- hi- pardon me-good morning." And I was standing there alone. On the big gray table in the middle of the room was an open box of Valentine candy, mostly gone. I peered in and helped myself to a red-and-gold-foil-wrapped dome.

I was deciding whether to unwrap it and eat it there or to take it back to my desk when Lewis tapped me on the shoulder. “So?” he said.

“So what?” I answered. I unwrapped the candy and popped it in my mouth. I bit into it, releasing a flood of the sweet liquid from the chocolate covered cherry.

“So it looks like you want your candy after all.”

“Mine?” I said, and it turned out that he’d come by my desk and seen the candy and thought I hadn’t wanted it. The girls said that I’d opened the card and put it back in the envelope without telling them anything about it. Why would I tell them? It was private. But he thought I’d rejected him.

“So?” he said again.

“So this!” I said. I turned my face up, and put one hand on his shoulder and one on the back of his head. And then I waited.

“Do you?” he asked, his lips so close I could feel his breath on my mouth.

“What do you think?” I answered. I waited, my mouth filled with the sweet taste of candy, of honeyed words.

I grew up being told that to kiss and tell was bad for a boy to do and even worse for a girl.

We fed each other more of the leftover candy, and before we’d had a chance to get into trouble the IT guys came back in, mumbling apologies for interrupting. I could feel myself blush as I told them they weren’t interrupting anything.

And they weren’t, not really.

I was walking out the door to go back to my desk when Lewis said that I'd forgotten something. He handed me the almost empty box of candy, and he smiled. The IT guys whistled and clapped. I curtsied, which is really not like me, while I held the open box of candy so it wouldn't spill.

I walked back to my desk humming "Love and Marriage," and if anyone heard me, the worst that would happen is that they'd say something and it would get back to Lewis. And that wouldn't be bad at all. It would give him something to think about while he's at the drugstore looking for another Valentine and whatever else he thinks he should be getting to make tonight a perfect romantic evening.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Donna Levy [ ] on Monday, February 22nd, 2010 at 9:23 AM
Loved your story. You have an easy to read style with believable characters. Excellent! Donna Levy

Posted by Marie Shield [ ] on Monday, February 22nd, 2010 at 11:01 AM
Congratulations, Miriam. It's been awhile since I've read anything of yours and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy your delightfully honest way of writing. Marie

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