Image courtesy of Stockvault.
Author’s Note: Here’s a little something I whipped up for Valentine’s Day. Since love is in the air, some of it landed in this story – in the most backhanded of ways. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Jim didn’t believe in love. It didn’t exist, couldn’t be measured, and certainly wasn’t quantifiable. He couldn’t eat it, spend it, or do anything with it. Worse, it made people stupid, the kind of dumb that causes social decay and general unrest. If he was tyrant for a day, he’d make it illegal.
He didn’t even believe in love in the most general terms. People would say they love candy, but really they just want to have something sweet. Everyone kept misusing the word for all kinds of silly reasons. Might as well just get rid of the English language while they’re at it, he’d complain to anyone who’d listen.
But if Jim wasn’t supportive of love as an idea or as a vocabulary word, he positively loathed February 14th. Out of 365 days in the year, the middle of February was his least favorite. Everyone around him would get into a mass hysteria, wear red, and go on tour with grotesque displays of public affection. Couples holding hands in public were bad enough; Valentine’s Day made them unbearable.
On the walk home from work that day, Jim counted no fewer than forty separate couples strolling happily hand-in-hand, hugging, or whispering sweet nothings to each other. All the stores in the local shops had their windows plastered with hearts and roses and chocolates. One shopkeeper smiled and offered him a free sample, but Jim’s look of contempt made her recoil in mild terror. Sugar could not soothe Jim’s savage ire. He stomped up to his apartment building, alone, and let himself in.
He checked the mail first. Opening the small box, he reached in and grabbed a handful of bills and junk mail, the latter getting tossed into the nearby garbage can. Something fell to the ground, landing just under his shoe. Jim bent over, picked it up, and frowned. It was a red envelope, his name hand-printed in gold ink on the front. “This has to be a sick joke,” he muttered, and looked around to see if anyone was hiding or watching him. Satisfied he was alone, he jabbed a thumb in the crease and pulled the envelope open.
Inside was a simple card, black ink on white paper. It read:
For years, I’ve watched you come in alone to our building. I’ve seen your disapproving looks of other people as they pass you by. At first I thought you just preferred to be alone, but I think you positively despise couples who are happy.
Frankly, I’m disgusted by them too. Today, I’ve seen too many people stroll by with stupid looks on their faces. These are the same people who, as recently as yesterday, couldn’t stand each other. It makes no sense.
Not only that, but I keep getting harassed by my family and friends to get into a relationship. They don’t understand that these things require careful consideration of mutual interests, spending habits, and personal temperament. Instead, they just badger me constantly that love is enough, as if that ever did anything for anyone.
Last year at this time, I noticed you too had a brush with a friend who wanted you to get into a relationship. Your exchange with him could be heard halfway up the building. Although you seemed quite reasonable, your friend was not capable of seeing things from your enlightened perspective. As a happy accident, I realized that if you feel as I do on the subject, nothing should be more revolting than a pointless relationship. Also, I realized that this puts us both in a unique situation.
Since we both do not care for the insanity of love or making poor decisions with our lives, I propose that we enter into an agreement where we both claim each other as a romantic partner. Neither party is bound to do all the stupid things we witness other people doing. Gifts and exchanges shall be made on a quid quo pro basis. To make this official, I cordially invite you to dinner this evening at my place in apartment 7D. As per the agreement, this means dessert will be at your apartment afterwards. Should you find these terms acceptable, you may dress for formal dinner and arrive at my place sharply at 7 pm.
Jim closed the letter, and tapped it against the envelope. His face felt warm, and he had a faint smile. All these years of living in this apartment, and he had no idea someone else felt exactly like he did about love. The prospect of having an arrangement where he could get all of his associates to leave him alone about getting a romantic partner made his heart skip a beat. He’d even get dinner, and his smile broadened when he remembered he actually had a fresh cherry pie he could throw in the oven.
Practically floating to the elevator, Jim’s head filled with what he should wear to dinner. He imagined the conversation regarding mutual interests and biographical history. Someone else got onto the elevator with him, and gave him a strange look when he giggled absently to himself. Jim didn’t care; he was thinking about how he’d spend the evening talking about all the stupid people going to restaurants this evening.
Dinner wouldn’t be out of the question, Jim decided. The elevator stopped at his floor, and he got out with a spring in his step. Tonight would be the first Valentine’s night that he’d spend pleasantly, and he had a secret admirer to thank for it.