She read that note often. It bore evidence of how often: tattered edges, tears along the folds and imprints of fidgety fingers. She was familiar with every contour like one is with a well-fingered photograph. That didn’t stop her from looking at it every day. Some days she lingered on it a few moments longer. On some others, it was a hurried gesture, akin to a last-minute assurance to the self. It was more a look than a read.
She had saved it in her favorite picture album, one that contained all the happy childhood memories. Cake-cutting ceremonies amid much fanfare; happy, giggly shots of the faces that defined her world; and some candid memories of home. She placed the note at the very end of the album, a few leaves away from the pictures. It was her meager attempt at separating her two worlds.
Her gal pals teased her about the note mercilessly. She pretended being thick-skinned. Fortunately, on some days that actually worked. The other times, she considered getting rid of it. What difference would the physical presence make! She had already memorized the content on numerous occasions, she rationalized. But she was also too stubborn.
So it sat there, in her album, for a few years, forgotten by the time she got to college. She reacquainted herself with it one afternoon, when she was packing up her memories in yet another box, for yet another destination. She shrieked with glee when she chanced upon it. Neglecting the many years of wear and tear, the fingers got aggressive with giddy excitement and passion. She consoled herself that it wasn’t an intentional rip. Or she’d never acknowledge it even it was. She was surprised at the lack of tears. She contemplated piecing it together with scotch tape to reclaim a piece of her heart. Her fingers did not oblige.
She had, in minutes, destroyed the physical traces of her first Valentine present. It had taken her seven long years to do so. Years later, she recounted this tale to the author of that note, hoping to ring a bell somewhere. He feigned total ignorance. The entire episode had escaped his memory. There was no note she could produce as evidence, only her broken heart as collateral damage.