Originally published on February 10th 2012
I love Valentines day.
I’m like someone who starts hanging Christmas lights in November. I celebrate the entire week.
I think the story is beautiful. That St. Valentine, likely himself celibate was willing to go against the throne, holding secret marriage ceremonies-suffering execution for his service to love, feels to me like a concentrate of what love is-breaking the rules of the throne of the known world, answering to the authority of a pull you cannot escape. Dying for it because you could not live with yourself if you didn’t serve love first.
And Valentines Day is like a drop of a reminder, just add liquid, drink it down and those heart lights start to flicker.
I was enjoying my morning porch-sit with the uplifting thought, “what message would I want to leave behind, what would my dying words be” and I thought:
Love is the truth.
The myriad interpretations that followed, which if you have a mind like mine looks so damned elegant, because wherever you put the emphasis, on love or truth, different meanings open- but they need each other for it to work.
Like the English professor wrote the words, “Woman without her man is nothing” on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly.
The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”
The women wrote: “Woman: Without her, man is nothing.”
I even like all of the ways love can be punctuated from the comma to the period, or the all caps stage of the initial fall. So many people become love teetotalers, Valentine’s bashers in the face of that “period” forgetting that following that tiny dot there is space. Space to discover who you are now, after the momentum of a lot of words rolling along, seemingly just fine, come to a certain death and you are rapidly shuttled into nothingness, into the unknown where every radio station is tuned to your broken heart.
To me, that stage is so beautiful that all love may in fact be for that experience. What comes flying out is so tender and long forgotten.
I was frantically writing the other day, the first day of Valentines, and something kept tapping me on the shoulder. “Go for a walk” it kept repeating at such an escalating pitch that finally I stopped and said aloud, “okay!”. Dragged around behind that voice on an unusually charged grey day in Venice, I was carried all the way to Santa Monica when suddenly emerged a seventeen-year-old girl from my cracked heart. As if she had been in hiding this whole time-the girl pregnant from the first time, a panicked abortion and her Mormon first love who could not remain , the girl who not long after, nearly died in a car accident.
And the eighteen year old who came in to clean it all up because apparently no one else was going to. A little tough, a little wry, always on her toes, ready to go before anyone else can. Both pushing their way out of my heart.
Like someone ready to faint, I looked for a place to sit and found a bus bench next to an Abuelita who wasn’t sure what to do so she offered me some of there pastry.
I felt the seventeen year old-that love as fierce as it was pure. When he left, he just didn’t know what to do but to send it out with greater ferocity because it could not have been more pure.
It didn’t make sense.
She loved him. And she knew that he loved her. She knew him better than this. He couldn’t have fallen under the sway of the throne, their fear tactics could not work on him. She just couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t the truth. You must serve the truth.
The Mormon boy asking her to please stop.
She did , but even in respecting his request she felt herself dishonoring her reverence for love.
Until she found herself flying through the windshield of her car. Waking up in the ER, on Valentine’s Day, 1984,blood everywhere including her spinal cord.
“it will effect her memory” they said.
But not that one.
She vowed to wait for him. And locked herself away. There crouched and waiting. The best I had to offer her as she emerged was me. And my promise that I would never let that happen to her again, which was clearly not what she wanted to hear as I was met with something like a punch in my gut.
She wanted to know that I would let it happen again. That I would be willing to give her love the dignity that it deserves. I agreed,and felt her release into every cell, every molecule, every atom of my body. I found myself back on my feet and my back, always a little crooked from what I assumed was the accident, grew straight.
An hour later, still walking, people smiling as if to say, “yes, I see”, I turn in to the Urth café and get a green tea latte, the celebratory liquid. The man sitting near me strikes up conversation asks about my ring, am I married? No, I answer. “How do you expect anyone to know if there’s a room available if there’s a ‘No Vacancy” sign hung out?” he asks.
I smile. My heart twinkles like Valentine’s day Christmas lights.
“Got it” he said, “dumb question”.
(Photo Credit: Tim Marshall)