His eyes were narrowed into slits with concentration and the tip of his tongue protruded slightly between his teeth as he wrote at a furious pace. The dim lights in the club heightened the shadows on his face, highlighted the strong bridge of his nose and defining the fine curve of his jaw. His eyebrows were drawn together in a small frown, wrinkling his forehead in a most attractive manner. Coal black eyes focused on the scrap of paper with intensity that made my insides turn to water.
I could feel the heavy disco beat vibrating through the soles of my shoes. I could smell the overpowering smell of cologne and sweat penetrating the cool air. Despite my less than serene surroundings, I was contended here. Here means anywhere beside him. Anywhere that I could see him, hear his deep voice and speak to him. His expressive face with its smiling lips, his large, warm hands that seem to make everything else seem small in comparison, his rough-shaven cheeks that made my fingers itch to feel them… all these and more I loved.
Jer - the man of my dreams – left out a growl of frustration and crumbled the paper into a ball. He then proceeded to throw it behind him, adding it to a growing pile of paper balls that littered the ground around him. He was stuck – again.
I watched as he took out another fresh sheet of paper and lifted his pen in preparation to once again try to transfer his feeling into black and white. But just as his pen was about to touch the paper, he halted uncertainly, his puzzlement clearly etched on his face. Then, his face suddenly lighted up, as if he had just solved a problem that had plagued him dreadfully. He turned to look at me.
At once I knew what he wanted; I also knew that I would not be able to resist his persistence. That does not mean I will not try, however.
Composing my face, I looked steadily back at him. He widened his eyes and jutted his lower lip, evidently thriving for the Puss-In-Boots irresistible look of pleading.
I crossed my arms and shook my head slowly. Nope, this one isn't going to work.
He tried a new track, exploding in a din of noise, all of them explaining to me why I should help him.
That isn't going to work either, Jer.
He cajoled, he threatened. He begged and shouted. All the usual Jer-nonsense. He knew what I wanted, he knew what to say, but he just wouldn't say it.
You see, it has become a sort of game. Every time he wanted me to do something for him, he would have to say the magic word. That's right – please – is it really so hard to say? A single word with a single syllabus – please. And every time he would attempt to get his way without saying it. Really, you'd think he ought to have learnt by now!
Usually I'll laugh along and pretend to be swayed by his silly taunts, but tonight was different. Tonight I really did not want him to say that word, I dread the moment he got impatient enough to lower his sky-high ego and plead with me to help him. I dread the word that made me his slave, chained by a years of love and friendship to his every beck and call. He often complained that of all the girls in the school (of which he was the kinga) I was the one that seemed unaffected by his charm, having known him since childhood. Oh! If only he knew!
But all things that are due must come. And this was no exception.
Finally, with a lot of exaggerated sighs of defeat, he muttered the magic word – the dreaded word: please. He said it sincerely despite his tone of voice, with all his heart, with all his might. I could see it in his eyes. His hands were clammy and cold with nervousness and they gripped the handles of his chair so hard that his knuckles turned white.
It was then I knew.
He loved her. Really, really loved her. With all of his being, his heart, his mind.
I had lost. Forever. And my heart shattered into a million pieces.
I wanted to cry.
Instead I smiled shakily at him, hoping that the dim light would mask my quivering chin, and took the pan and paper from him.
I uncapped the pen and began to write, each word bringing with it a wave of pain:
You probably don't remember me, but I'm Jer from your economics class. I sit two seats behind you on the right and ever since I saw you on the first day of school I have liked you. You probably think that I'm kidding or playing around. I know I tend to do that - a lot. But this time I'm serious.
I know that you like to wear your black and white Converse shoes with mismatching socks. The left shoe has a hole in it, near the big toe. I know that your favorite artist is Kelly Clarkson and that your favorite colour is baby blue because your bag, files and wallet is the dusky grey that is what happens when baby blue fades away with age. I also know that you like red speckled roses, so I hope you'll like your Valentine's Day present.
I've waited for a long time for this, this chance for me to tell you my feelings. You've no idea how much I've gone through, how much this silent crush has tormented me, but now I've decided to hold back no more. Every time I see you, I would feel infinitely happy. Every minute I spent away from you, I'm thinking of you. I really like you.
Alice Grace O'Conner, will you be my Valentine?
There. I've wrote it.
Jer was ecstatic with joy, thanking me over and over, saying again and again how perfect it was, how the emotions reflect his own so well, how I seemed to know exactly what he wanted to say. Joyce, he said, you've read my mind.
Have I read his mind? Did I really have some sort of mystic power to somehow peer into his heart?
No. I do not.
I knew because that was all he had been telling me for the past month. I knew because every time we went out together on our weekly dinners, he would stare dreamily out the window and ramble on about his crush. It was always Alice this… or Alice that… And every time he did this, my heart would give a painful tug. Every time he laughed in delight at something that Alice said, my stomach would clench and I would feel as though someone had punched me in the gut.
I also knew because it was exactly how I felt.
You've no idea how much I've gone through, how much this silent crush has tormented me.
Years it had been. Ever since the third year of high school when I realised that we were no longer just kids, but a guy and a girl. I suppose it was natural, after all he was the closest to me other than my father and brother. He, whom I've tumbled in the grass with, whom I've argue and fought with, whose presence gave me strength on countless occasions, and he was my other half, my soul mate.
Every time I see you, I would feel infinitely happy. Every minute I spent away from you, I'm thinking of you.
I had wanted to tell him when we hit high school. To confess my heart, whether or not he would accept me. But the moment we stepped into school, the girls came flocking over. He was so strong, so handsome. And with his charming smile and witty remarks, he was what every girl dreamed of. Stacks of love letters flooded his locker. His table was so crowded at lunch time that I often had to sit elsewhere.
You can imagine why I changed my mind. How could he ever take me seriously when he was receiving proposals every other day? How could my love matter when he was practically the center of attention from the whole school? Jer was too precious to me. I was so afraid of loosing him completely that I would rather hold on to his friendship. Even though looking upon him was like cutting my heart with a knife, knowing as I did that he views me only as a friend, even though friendship was not – and not ever will be – enough. And so high school passed into college and Jer met Alice.
I wept bitterly, all alone in my room on Valentine's night, even as Jer and Alice went out on their first date, even as they laughed and loved. And I wept.
I regard the last year of college as one of the worse years in my life. Jer and Alice got together that year. My hope withered and turned into dust.
Jer and Alice were the most celebrated couple on campus. I would often sit in my lonely corner of the library and listen to the gossip flow around me. Since Jer was spending less and less time with me, I had to get information anyway I could, and gossip was one of the best ways, even if it was not 100% accurate.
Finals came and went. They both graduated with honours. As did I.
They say time heals all things. Time went on. But there was only an empty aching hole where my heart once was.
I became a doctor, a strange twist, as my childhood inspiration was to become an astronaut. Jer and I lost contact two years after graduation. Last I heard they were planning to tie the knot.
Then, one day I received an offer to go to USA to continue my research on stem cells. I took it at once. It was my chance to start again anew, my chance to forget about him, my last chance to live my own life. So I went.
But before I left I wrote a letter. A letter that I told the postman to sent on 14 February.
This was how it went:
It has been a long time since we graduated hasn't it? I'm now working at the hospital as a doctor as well as doing stem cell research at the University. How is your company doing? Have you achieved your dream of earning your first million by the time you turn 28? Your birthday is in five weeks time you know.
Well, Jer, today is the 14 of February. Three years ago this day, I wrote a letter for you. A letter that I hope has helped you gain the happiness you seek. But now, I'm sorry to have to tell you this way: I'm leaving. I've been offered a place in a team of scientists and doctors that are researching on the same subject as I am, so I'm going to America to join them. In fact, by the time you are reading this letter, I'm probably already on the plane, halfway across the Pacific.
I hope you are not mad at me, leaving so suddenly like this, but I won't blame you if you are. I know that you and I have been the best of friends and I want you to know that that has not changed. I did not leave because I don't love you anymore. I left because I do love you, so much, too much. You have known me for how many years? Eight? Ten? But yet you still do not truly know me. I'm so sorry, so sorry that you cannot imagine.
I love you, Jer. I have loved you for years now. Only when I'm with you do I feel alive. Only when I am with you I feel happy. Yes, I'm confessing to you, as I had wanted to three years ago, three years too late. I see your beloved face right now. Frowning at the paper. Did you know that when you frown you will always unconsciously winkle your forehead? I would love to have seen you one last time before I left, but I couldn't bear it. I'm so cowardly, Jer, I'm afraid of what I would do if you had said no. I'm afraid that I'll drop down on my knees and beg you to change your mind. But as much as I love you I know too that love cannot be forced, I know that it would do no good except to humiliate you and me further. So I chose the coward's way out. I wrote this letter.
I've told you my heart. I've bare to you my soul. Now it is up to you. If you truly love Alice then stay with her, with my blessing. If she makes you happy, if she's the one that lights up your life as you have done for me, then love her, cherish her, and don't ever let her go. Don't make the same mistake as I did. Tell her that you love her everyday. Tell her how much she means to you. She shall take my place beside you; she will do all that I cannot.
You will always be my heart, Jer. I love you. Happy Valentine's Day.
Joyce Marilyn Flitzer