Standing alone with company

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any day between, moments spent with another are to be cherished as unique moments, untouched by the past.

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any day between, moments spent with another are to be cherished as unique moments, untouched by the past.

Word selection is crucial when it comes to love letters. Or, in my case, love pleas.

“This is the last thing I will ever write to you on a Valentine’s Day,” I read out loud to my best and longest friend, Anne. “Does that make me sound too psycho?”Maria-Zankey

“No, it works,” she reassured me. “But scrap the ‘Valentine’s Day’ part. You’re never writing to that a—— again, period. Right?”

Right. I couldn’t; I was running out of language. During the four years of our relationship, I had basically reiterated the same sentiment in exactly seven letters, written on the same cream-colored notebook paper, bordered in irises: “I love you, but I can’t take this anymore.”

It had all started Feb. 14, 2001, when in an AIM conversation, I asked Tom, the boy who made fun of me in Earth and Space Science class, if he would go out with me. He said “no,” but then told me at the Valentine’s Day dance that night, to the soundtrack of K-Ci and JoJo’s “All My Life,” that he’d changed his mind.

And then I was his girlfriend.

The whole way it went about was the complete opposite of my style. I was a perfectionist. If there was a chance things wouldn’t pan out like I wanted on the first try, I didn’t even want to attempt.

But it happened, so I embraced it. He was my first boyfriend, and the rest would go according to plan. He would be my first love, my first sex partner, and we would be together forever.

That night, to follow to an evening of awkward hand placements during the pseudo-lesbian-kiss scene in Cruel Intentions, we had our first kiss in his parents’ basement.

His mom drove me home in their Nissan Xterra, and I immediately ran to Anne’s house to give her the details.

“And I wasn’t even bored after 45 minutes,” I bragged.

“Well, you better make me your maid-of-honor,” she said with a laugh. “You guys are perfect.”
On Valentine’s Day 2002, Tom stood at my front porch with a bouquet of white roses.

The night that followed consisted of some more experienced hair petting and making out. His Abercrombie and Fitch “Fierce” cologne was, to me, the most comforting smell, and he finished the night with the words I’d been waiting to hear since our first slow dance a year earlier.

“Well, it’s Valentine’s Day again, and I love you.”

And I loved him, too. I loved the way he sang the Black Eyed Peas in a high-pitched voice, the way he knew the punch lines of my corny jokes before I got to them, the way his hair curled around his ears. I loved him through and through.

But as time went on, we became the couple in high school that could never master the “on-again” part of a relationship that was almost always on the brink of “off-again.” His philosophy that he should sleep with as many people as possible before we got married was not shared, and I would use my over-dramatic love letters to beg him to change his mind.

But that last letter was never torn from my cream-colored notebook. Anne was more than right. To beg for his love again, especially on a Valentine’s Day, was only contributing to our dysfunctional relationship with Feb. 14.

Anne and I spent the holiday drinking whiskey and making prank phone calls instead.

But this isn’t a story of friendship over romance. In February 2009, a few lazy mouse clicks on Facebook led to a photo I’d never dream of seeing on my Macbook screen: Anne and Tom, legs and lips both locked.

Surprisingly, my heart did not sink to the floor of my stomach. If there was one thing I had learned during my relationship that was so full of love but so lacking faithfulness, it was that we are all alone, all the time – on Valentine’s Day and every day between until the next.

I learned that regardless of the love – romantic or otherwise – anyone shares with another person, nothing can ever mold the two of you into one entity. Blood pumped through your veins at different rates before you met, and it will continue to. You will each dream different dreams, even as you sleep tangled up in one another.

But it’s not something to feel sad about. It’s something to understand.

The time I spent with Anne was precious and unique, as was the time I spent with Tom. But it wasn’t my time – it was just time, period.

And as with them and with every person I will spend Feb. 14 with in the future, the memories made are to remain untouched and uninfluenced by any Valentine’s Days past.

Life is not an equation to be solved and then stand as figured until you die. It is a collection of moments, and the moments appreciated are the ones that will add up to a fulfilled, meaningful life.

Maria Zankey can be reached at

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