Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, which I call “Halloween for Lovers”. It’s a religious day that was coopted by big business to sell you more shit because January and February suck in retail post-Xmas. Regardless, people seem to go in for it, so half the articles out there right now are blabbering about romance, etc. My concession to you all is one article: this woman was courted by a smoothie who made his move through her favourite novel. Aw, isn’t it …lovely… how closely courting and stalking are? It’s like a Sting song.
“Hello, I’m Mark,” he said warmly, extending his hand with (I came to learn) characteristic frankness. “Who are you?”
“Not now,” I replied, batting the hand away with (I must insist on this) uncharacteristic curtness. I was tired. I was wary. I had recently been dumped by a man to whom I had devoted considerable attention, and I wasn’t ready for a new entanglement, let alone conversation, with a stranger.
The encounter would have ended there had Mark not demonstrated unusual and, given the circumstances, inexplicable persistence. He obtained my email address from a mutual friend and energetically deployed it. Eventually I found myself having lunch with him, and of course we talked about books — terrain we’d already established as common ground. We exchanged the names of our favorite novels and joked about the fact that he had not read mine, nor I his.
The next day, a copy of his arrived in the mail: “Vineland,” by Thomas Pynchon. And then, a few days later, came a crisp handwritten card containing a passage from mine, Henry James’s “The Portrait of a Lady”: “There was such a thrill even in the preliminary hovering.”
When that card was followed by an invitation to brunch, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. There were more meals after that, along with, at crucial intervals, handwritten cards featuring lines from my favorite novel.