The Valentine That Never Was

You never wanted a Valentine. I knew that right from the start. For you, it was just so many little, meaningless trinkets. You didn’t want flowers; you accepted every bouquet from all those hopeful suitors with a polite smile, but left them on a table in hopes someone would walk by and steal them. You never seemed to care much for expensive jewelry, either; I can count the number of times you wore something extravagant on a single hand. I could always tempt you with chocolate. But then again, we were always sharing food with each other. If I gave you a box of Godiva or Ghirardelli, you’d just split it with me. We’d eat our meals like we always did – book and phone in hand respectively – and the little treats would just be an added bonus. We’d sit there quietly, occasionally exchanging words and knowing glances. As if everything was normal between us.

After a year of unspoken attraction, it was normal.

We made it so obvious. Neither of us was particularly subtle about it. I kept catching you staring at me. All those held gazes, fleeting but genuine smiles, deep blushes, shifts in body language. Hands and lips close enough to touch, the smell of perfume, the massages, the playful tug of each others’ hair. The tension was palpable. Everyone else in our group was terrified of you, and for good reason. You were so wonderfully fierce, headstrong, and ambitious. You relished playing that role, but I saw past it the moment we spoke alone. The stress, loneliness, awkwardness, confusion, the sheer exhaustion from trying to do everything yourself…you didn’t fool me for a second, because I was exactly the same. You would’ve eventually suffered a nervous breakdown, had I not called you on it. I still remember that stunned, disbelieving look on your face. Was that why you were attracted to me? Because I wasn’t intimidated and wanted to see what lurked beneath your facade? Because I refused to worship you and dared to treat you like a real person instead? Because you found someone to whom you could vent your problems? Because I could teach you things about the world you’d yet to explore? Because I could make you – that stony-faced workaholic – laugh with just a glance?

We didn’t fool anyone. They gossiped about us, you know. Made sure we had plenty of alone time. I think they were taking bets over who’d make the first move. But neither of us budged. It was so, so tempting, but we were locked in an emotional stalemate. It’s ironic; we were supposedly the two boldest, smartest people in the room, yet we were too afraid to just say the truth aloud. There was that underlying fear of change, that admitting anything would irrecoverably shift our dynamic and alter our futures. We silently blamed it on the timing, our careers, and ambitions. We didn’t want to hold each other back. So when we inevitably parted ways, there weren’t any tears; we thanked each other for all we’d done, hugged, smiled, and left.

You know what the weird thing is? I don’t miss you anymore. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder; it just makes you forget. I remember those moments and hours we shared. Working on projects late into the night, and you gleefully singing to songs (especially Don’t Stop Believin’) in my playlist. Watching and laughing at terrible movies together. Accidentally walking in on each other getting ready for a dinner, and helping each other get dressed. The one time we went bowling, and failing miserably at it. All the times I playfully mocked you for being such a klutz. The stares, smiles, and sorrows you gave me when you thought no one was looking. I recall all of it, but only through a veneer of faded nostalgia. I’ve moved on, and I’m sure you have as well. And that’s okay. Though I was never your lover, I managed to bring out what you dared not to reveal to anyone. I got you to realize there was more to life – and you – than just a salary. You coaxed me out of my shell, gave me a reason to believe in people, and the possibility that life was indeed worth living. I know you never wanted a Valentine, but I hope you’ll settle for a thank you.