365 Days In Paris: St. Valentin

“I think today might be the one day of the year where it’s socially acceptable to get wasted alone,” I wondered aloud as Emily and I walked past some heart-shaped decorations in the window of one of the many anonymous-looking Chinese restaurants lining the streets of Belleville. It was Sunday, Valentine’s Day, and we’d spent the morning in yoga class and were now walking back to the metro together.

“Awww,” she said, consolingly. “Well, I think Valentine’s Day is kind of like New Year’s. Usually a letdown. But totally, you can drink.”

“Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll cook something nice too,” I said, immediately reflecting on the guilty secret that has been my life for the past few weeks: working in bed for most of the day, reluctantly dragging myself out into the cold to find a pathetic dinner of baguette and cheese or yogurt and cereal. It made me remember that I’ve been so lazy lately that I hadn’t bothered to do the dishes after most of these meals, and that my apartment was a complete disaster zone.

We walked on in silence, both ostensibly sad because of the lovers’ holiday. Me, because I’m completely alone. Emily, alone as well because her boyfriend lives in Spain. At that point, it seemed only natural that, yes, I’d cook tonight, and Emily should come over so that we could have a girls’ night, drink some champagne, and feel sorry for ourselves. I felt relief because the thing is, I’ve never had any feelings about V-Day before, but this year felt like a slap in the face because last year, I’d spent it with Alex …In fact, February 14, 2009 should have been a first warning sign that Alex would leave me hanging. I was visiting him in Amsterdam, and we’d only been together a short time. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of the day, but I had bought some special lingerie and had at least expected we’d go out to eat. But when he got home from work that night, he was terse and exhausted and just wanted to stay in. That’s OK, I told him. But when I started to kiss him, and make it clear I wanted to get him in bed, Alex stopped. “I’m sorry. Can we just cuddle? I’m really tired,” he told me. I felt completely rejected. We broke up a few days later—coming to some sad-yet-mutual agreement that we weren’t in the right place to be together even if our hearts were tied up. (Although, clearly, I was never really convinced deep down that it was best to let go.)

So now was a reminder of where I was last year. And it hurt. A lot. Everything with Alex just felt so unfinished and I had so many questions that I wanted answered. I felt certain that I would hear from him again, even though at this point our radio silence was going on three-plus weeks. These thoughts bounced around my head as I got on the line 11 train to Hôtel de Ville, rushing to get home to prepare for the evening.

It was a good thing I’d decided to invite Emily over because it forced me to pick up my life a bit. I felt a burst of energy as I cleaned every corner of my little studio, shopped the outdoor market for ingredients, and stopped at the bakery for fresh bread. The meal was great. We shared a bottle of champagne and talked about the confusion in our lives, but also giggled and laughed at the ridiculousness of expat life in Paris.

When she left, however, I felt alone again, and tipsy, I took to my computer. Alex was online. What was he doing tonight? I wondered. Was he alone? Was he seeing someone new? Has he had sex since we last saw each other? Is he thinking about Valentine’s Day last year, too?

Against all my better judgment, I G-Chatted him, knowing I was probably making a mistake:

Me: hey. don’t know if you remember but we spend last valentine’s day together. anyhow. yeah.
Pause. His icon turned from green to yellow. He was idle. Jesus.
Me: anyhow. that’s all. best to you.
10 minutes pass before he turns to green again.
Alex: hey. you were here then? did we go some chic place you’d had on your list?
Me: not quite. but something like that.

With that last sentence, I waited to see what else he might say. But several minutes passed, and I couldn’t bare it any longer, so I signed out of chat. I sat in my bed, staring at the wall for a minute. He didn’t even remember. And what was with that comment about the restaurant? It didn’t sound like him. It sounded annoyed and critical of my personality. All of a sudden, I knew I’d had enough. I was so sick of feeling this way, and for the first time it actually made me angry, rather than sad. I turned back to my laptop, knowing what I had to do, and what I should have done weeks ago. I started with Gmail, and moved on to Twitter and Facebook, removing him from everything. (For the second time.) I now wanted to let go, or at least try, whereas for the past month and a half or so, I’ve said “I’m trying,” but knew I wasn’t when there were so many digital reminders I was keeping up with. Holding out hope that one day, I’d see something that cryptically implied he was thinking of me too, or that eventually the chat icon might flash with a message from him.

I didn’t expect to feel better after the purge, but surprisingly, I did. My wounds weren’t (and still aren’t) by any means healed, but I do care just a little bit less.

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