I was in Grade 5 when I found it on my desk with other valentines. It was a small card flagged with immoderate blowzy, ruddy, fevered red that was both startling and sweet. And framing that warm glowing fire was a ripple of delicate white lace secured by tiny pastel violets.
The beauty of it, the lace, the color-stir of red and white formed into emotions of a strange and mystifying blend.
The arrow looks like nothing more than an icon. But I am deceived. It sails right off the paper and pierces my soul with a sharp agonizing sting and then forces my body to drink from the angular tip. A tip envenomed with a potion that caused heart palpitations at a critically dangerous romp.
Already, that is enough, but now add to that the bewitching charm of a chant of minuscule rhyme. Condensed into a faulty iambic pentameter of twiddling words and a silly pun. Silly enough to make me laugh. Lyrical enough to raise goose-bumps. And then, when I least expect it, coming to a halt with the catchy spine-tingling freeze of a sweet musical strain.
Fullness of understanding should come quickly, but it doesn’t. It waves and falters. Building like a gentle wind before a storm into a gathering stir. Gently blowing here, mercilessly blasting there. And amidst all this toss, I check, and double check and check again. Yes, there it is. In labored graphite pencil…his name…his sweet seal…approving the message.
This is an insidious hypnotism. That’s what it is. I am under some kind of intoxicating spell. With much difficulty, I attempt to mask emotions beyond my control enough to keep a cool professional-looking Grade-5-exterior. But maintaining dignity without strength is so hard to do. I am as weak as a kitten. I want to laugh. I want to cry. And so, with lips pressed together in a tight grip, and eyes ahead, I run to the bathroom, hide my face in the wall, and do both.
It was not the arrow or the fire or the lace or the violets or even the rhyme that converted me with one bold, staggering blow from realist to a hopeless romantic. It was the scrawl of that penciled signature.
Love, love, love. I am surrounded with love, embedded with love, enveloped with love, cradled with love, skipping with love, and emotionally scarred for life by the significance of one small Valentine.