I’m terribly sorry that this is getting out now. I started this draft on the date below, but as I was sick for some time, I was only able to finish it up and publish today. I had initially thought about scraping the post entirely, but I figured why not just put it out. I hope it’s worth the read.
Monday 13th February, 2017.
It’s Valentine’s Eve, if there’s anything like that. Ten years ago to the day today, I had my very first Valentine’s day experience. Before that, the 14th of February came and went like any other day before or after it.
I was a high school senior, a mildly awkward teenager, who escaped being the typical class nerd, by having some social skills to boast of and by being one of the most explosive sprinters on the track and field team for my House. I ran the 100m, 200m as well as the 100×4 relays. I did the 400m x 4 relay race once and gave up thereafter. It didn’t suit me.
You really couldn’t boast of being an athlete, if you didn’t play football. I mean real football, not American football- no offence. I played mostly as a left fullback, even though I wasn’t left-footed.
We met on the field of play literally. It was the Inter-House Sports Competition- sometime in January. We were in the same House- Blue House and were both in the track team. I was absolutely smitten from the first time we met during trials. The admiration was mutual. She loved how I could go from stationary to a hazy blur in a split second. I was blown away by her all-round abilities, not to mention her beautiful figure. She was fast enough to sprint the short distances well enough, but it was the ease with which she ate the middle and long distances that blew me away. I think her favorite race must have been the 400m, maybe followed by the 400m x4 relay. She had this trick where she’d run the first 200m at a half jog, making sure to keep just behind whoever was leading, then accelerate past them and leave them a distant second in the next 200m. Then she’d finish with that beautiful smile on her face, hardly even panting.
Midway into the games, I knew I was in love. I just hoped she liked me well enough. I’d try to meet up with her at every opportunity, after all we had to “strategize” on how to dominate the track, decide on relay partners and the order in which we’d run. All of that was really just an excuse to see her again.
Then came the D-Day, Valentine’s in all its glory. I could hardly breathe. I had smuggled in some Valentine cards- needless to say, such items were strictly forbidden in the boarding house. I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to give them to her and thus declare my interest in something other than her sportsmanship.
My school was tricky. It was a hybrid between coeducational and segregated. Boys and girls technically attended the same school, but the campus was really large and the girls lived and studied in a separate area. We got to see them once a week- every Monday, during morning assembly. If there were any important activities scheduled, then we’d probably see them within the week. Other than that, we’d see again in the chapel once a month, during combined church services and again during exams. Talk of perfect timing.
The stars had definitely lined up in my favour. A debate had been scheduled for that day, but it involved the junior students – middle schoolers in American terms. The first thing I did was to turn down the spot I had been offered, to be on the panel of Judges. I can’t even remember what excuse I gave, but I needed no distractions from the mission at hand.
The debate was scheduled to hold in the big Hall- at the very last floor of our administrative building. I waited untill proceedings upstairs were well underway, then I snuck to the floor directly below and sent for her. I handed her the surreptitiously packaged cards concealed in my hefty math notebook and told her there was a surprise in there, if she could find it. I can’t describe how exciting the adventure was or why I didn’t sleep a wink throughout that night. I was wondering- did she decipher where I’d hidden the cards? Would she accept my token of love? I’d written a poem for her somewhere in one of the cards. Would she like it? What if she was pissed that I’d mistaken our on-field camaraderie for affection? My mind was running amok.
The next morning, I could barely fit into my skin with anticipation. I knew that I could very well not get a response back from her that day. She would need to find a way to send the notebook back with her response or otherwise send a response some other way. It didn’t even cross my mind that I might end up losing my math notebook- all my notes from the 3 years of high school were in it. I was on tenterhooks. But like I said, the stars had lined up perfectly in my favour. Before the first class of the day, one of my mates brought me back my notebook, she had smuggled it across to the nearest senior with instructions to pass it on to me. Trust nosy teenagers, they searched every inch of real estate on that book, till they found where the message had been written. Nobody surreptitiously hands you a notebook belonging to the opposite sex, unless there was something juicy within.
Since my mates had already invaded the notebook, it made the search so much easier for me. I didn’t even feel like my privacy had been violated. In one of the most posterior pages, where I usually did my roughwork, tucked away in a corner, among figures and letters, numbers and formulas, in even script, written in our high school cypher- it simply read “I love you too”, followed by her initials. I let out the breath I’d been holding since the previous day.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had nothing on me. I had come, had seen, had conquered Valentine’s and had met the love of my life in the process. Beat that!
Surrounded by all those friends, mates and onlookers, I felt like the king of the hill. There in black and white, she had declared, loud and clear, for anyone versed in the cryptic cypher of our school lingo that she loved me. I don’t think I learnt anything at all that day. Many years afterwards, I would go back to the back of that math notebook and look at the note scribbled at the back and smile. Good memories!
We spoke today, 10 years to the day afterwards. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. She is married now with a small child. Had even been widowed. Wow! How come so much has happened in what feels like so little time? While obviously we no longer feel the same way about each other as we did back then, as we talked, it was obvious that the memory of that day and the year that followed was still very pleasant to say the least. It felt both weird and wonderful to catch up on my first Valentine’s day experience with my first girlfriend 10 years after the fact. It brings both tears and a smile to my face.
Unfortunately, it still remains my most memorable Valentine’s till date. Medical school and an unlucky run of events made sure of that. Apart from 2013 when I spent the day with my then-girlfriend eating out, going to the movies and capping it off with a couple of hours at the indoor pool and sauna, I don’t remember how I spent any other Valentine’s day in between. Which means that I probably didn’t celebrate it at all those times. Perhaps 2013 would have been the year to remember, if she hadn’t started an affair that same night, an affair that I found out or rather confirmed a few months afterwards.
Well, here’s a toast to my lousy luck with Valentine’s. Case in hand- this Valentine’s, I’m sweating out a fever from a wound infection and cellulitis in the surrounding area. No one to hold, no one to call, nothing to celebrate. Except perhaps the memory of a certain Valentine’s day 10 years ago.