Saturday, 25 April 2015

Valentine's Day Blues

Okay, I admit I have been behaving exceptionally peevish since morning. The thing is: I don’t know why. Fine, I do know. So, it’s Valentine’s Day, the glittery day of love and heart-shaped chocolates. So?
So, what?
I’m not being cranky for a disconcerting, hollow reason like Shanaya  gloating about how flawlessly dreamy her day has been going, or my room-mate modeling all dress alternatives she could possibly sport for her Big Date tonight (she finally chose the one I told I liked the least), or friends all around me receiving swathes of red roses, teddy bears proclaiming ‘I love you’ or a crimson box of over-priced chocolates and ME, on the other hand, strolling on the streets with a bundle of freshly printed posters inviting people to participate in a writing contest.
I guess I’m just fractious because I majorly oppose buying overpriced crap to publicly demonstrate heartfelt fondness. What’s it with the abundance of red? What’s with the teddy holding a heart? What’s it with the HEARTS?
 I mean, I get it, alright. You’re too much in love, unfathomable love right from the unyielding bottom of your heart. But why does everything around me have to keep advertising that? The entire world goes fanatical contemplating new ideas and pursuing traditional ones to impress their beloved companions. This one day.
I can almost picture some random guy in boots taking his lady love dressed in this terrific gown to this spectacular scenery under stars and they might have candle-light dinner near the ocean with the most perfect music. Or somewhere, some guy is kneeling on his knees this very moment and gifting diamonds to an overwhelmed receiver expressing high-pitched delight.
Me? I am a wreckage of my cartoon-quoted shirt, faded jeans and old black platforms.
Me? I am returning from a printing shop with posters of a writing contest I am helping host.
 Me? I am strolling dusty pavements with a so-in-love couple drooping ahead of me, behind me walks a woofing street dog. Oh, two street dogs. Brilliant.
Me? I’m opening links on Facebook which say ‘8 Undeniable Perks of Being Single on Valentine’s Day’.
Maybe, I shouldn’t level my scenario so much and just rest my nerves. I mean I had never been into Valentine’s Day much. Or into this entire being-in-love thing. I have hated and resisted every fancy attempt of Shanaya’s to get me to think about someone in relationship sort of way. I hate to have to try to work on love; it has to be a happening, not a doing, isn’t it? It has to be something so strong that it sweeps you away without giving you a choice at all. You either fall or you don’t.
Anyway, Shanaya thinks I have fabricated that up as an excuse for my lack of refinement and my perpetual awkwardness.
Okay, the truth is I have been too much of an awkward dumpling to respond to any sort of build-ups in my love life. I mean I have blabbered the most inappropriate things in the most inappropriate times to the most inappropriate people and in the event of choices, I have chosen to nourish myself with pastries instead of going out with people. And I have been perfectly happy. So I don’t see why today should affect me.
Actually, I think I know. I know why I’m being so tetchy about it, I mean. A while ago, I just happened to watch this movie Valentine’s Day with Shanaya, and I liked the movie almost as much as she did.  And I have to embarrassingly admit that the movie kind of built into me this idea of having this one dreamy day every year with someone absolutely charming.
But I reflect on it now, it’s absolutely gibberish.
Oh. Text message from Shanaya. ‘What’s up, baby? How are you spending the day?’
‘Printing posters, coughing in dusty streets and nurturing hostile feelings for every couple out there.’ I type. But I don’t send. I send this instead: ‘Might treat myself to some chocolate delight, had a tired day.’
‘Aww, I’m having such a good time, I feel sorry. You want me to come over? We could grab something together tonight.’
‘No Shanaya, I’ll be fine. You have a good time tonight. I’ll have brilliant food and watch some cute animated flick maybe.’
‘It’s a pity you had to let Aryan go.’
Aaaargh. What is it with lovelorn committed friends feeling sorry for you when you’re single? I mean they behave like there’s this faultless sphere of happiness we’re completely missing out on and without it, life is just futile. It is not futile, lovebirds!  So not futile.
Oh, Aryan. He’s someone I met through Shanaya and he’s become Shanaya’s absolutely favorite grilling focus for me. He was a little cute, I admit, but an absolute not-my-substance. He didn’t like chocolate, he didn’t read, he was shocked when he saw massive novels in my bag and commented he never thought anyone even read those. He insisted on me having coffee and I loathe coffee. Besides, nothing clicked. Something’s supposed to click, isn’t it?
‘I’m just going to have chocolate. Bye Shan, enjoy.’
I spot one of my most favorite chocolate product serving outlets in the city around the corner and race myself to the door. Sure enough, there are scarlet hoardings, heart- shaped cakes, cupcakes, chocolate boxes and the entire eatery is beautifully embellished with crimson decorations. There are couples sitting together sharing heart shaped delicacies. All I can say is my pupil is going to saturate of hearts. I decide I can’t sit here, I’ll just pack something and leave.
‘I don’t see why Aryan couldn’t fit in your Must-Haves. You didn’t give this a chance.’
‘I’m in the choco shop, Shan. Don’t stress yourself. Have fun!’
Must-Haves. Umm, okay. So I have this very absurd notion of must-haves. In the highly unlikely, highly distant event of me stumbling on someone charming, the charming fellow should a) be very kind b) appreciate the wonderful world of books and literature c) be breathtakingly funny d) be smart, poised yet should be able to appreciate lunacy. And I wouldn’t mind if someone looks Channing Tatum but hey, you don’t necessarily have to. I mean look at me. Anyway, Shanaya thinks my list of Must-Haves is completely bullshit and I’m going to die an old maid with a wonderful career if I don’t let go my insane list. But it’s hard, I have to tell you it’s hard.
“Ma’m, what would you like to have?” the girl at the counter asks me and I suddenly realize the fact that I’m standing first in the queue. It’s time to order chocolate.
“Chocolate chip pancakes. I would want them packed please,” I reply.
“We have a special offer on those,” the girl smiles. “You get a discount for two heart-shaped pancakes.”
“I don’t want heart shape,” I reply quickly. A man standing behind me with a bag-pack giggles a little. I take in his smile and he stops, turning his eyes away. The girl behind the counter looks a little sorry. “We only have heart shapes available for today actually, mam.”
“Um, I’ll have the cupcakes then, Chocolate Outlaw .”
“Cupcakes are being sold today in our special box of four, discounted and a free designer...” “I’m not interested in today’s offers!” I plead, tired. “A normal cake please. Pack for me a circular or rectangular chocolate truffle cake. Five hundred grams.”
“Yes mam,” the girl squeaks. “Any messages to be written on the cake?”
“No messages please, I’m eating the cake myself,” I retort.
“That’s an awful lot of cake to eat on your own,” the guy behind me laughs. I don’t reply. I stand aside and await my cake.
“I’ll have the chocolate pancakes, I don’t mind the heart shape and the discount for two,” the guy orders. “Though, I don’t have anyone to share them with either.” The girl behind the counter smiles. They both smile at me and I feel like evaporating.
The guy opens his bag to take his wallet out to pay and out pops this huge book from the bag, thudding to the floor. A Charlotte Bronte biography. I can’t help noticing and I can’t help smile in wonder.
“Elizabeth Gaskell,” I mutter aloud. He turns to stare at me in astonished delight. “Yes, the biography,” he smiles.
 “Gaskell did this for her very dear friend, Charlotte Bronte,” he adds, discerning an escalating curiosity. “Interestingly, another contributor to the biography is…”
“Patrick Bronte,” I sever him, smiling.
“Yeah, he’s the…” “Father, the father of the Bronte sisters,” I cut him again.
“Wow,” the guy smiles. “Most people I talk to about this think he’s the husband.”
“I like literature,” I say, suddenly feeling a little embarrassed. “I like reading about authors, reading not merely tales from novels but the tales of people who wrote them.”
“How they got inspired to write such a beautiful piece in the first place,” he adds smiling. “You’re one of the very few people I’ve met who’s told me that.”
And, I find myself smiling too much.
Text message from Shanaya. ‘You’re not blobbing alone tonight, I’m making plans for you.’
I look at the guy, and I take in his frayed stature, his callous warmth, his generous smile, the slobbering bag from his shoulders and his hand tucked in his shorts’ pockets. Something weird creeps into me and I decide I like him.  Besides, I don’t want to go back to a cold, empty room, stuff cake and sigh in misery.
‘You are right, Shan. You know what? I don’t think I’ll be alone, I’m making plans. Will brief you soon. Have fun, happy Valentine’s Day! ’ I text back.
“So,” I tell the guy as my cake parcel arrives punctually. “That is an awful lot of cake to have on my own.”
“I don’t have anyone to share pancakes with either,” he laughs. I snicker too. And I don’t feel too awkward for some reason, like I always have. “Heart shape is a bonus,” he adds, still smiling.
“Umm…We could have these together if you want,” I find myself telling. “I mean I have nowhere else to be and if you’re in no hurry…” “I’d love to,” he smiles.
The girl behind the counter has been following the conversation, beaming in amusement. “I’ll have the pancakes sent over to the table,” she tells us.
You know what? I don’t know if he suffices my list of must-haves and I don’t even know his name but I’m having a good time for now. Besides, I get to have chocolate pancakes and weirdly, I don’t even mind the heart shape now. It is an okay-ish Valentine’s Day. Also, I can gloat about this to Shanaya maybe and frankly, I’d love to.
[Author’s note: Piece is fictional.]


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