The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
Jason Marks had found the note while browsing the shelves of his favorite used book store. The inscription had read: “To my one and only Valentine.” He’d always wanted to have had someone--particularly a woman that was sincere, with facial features that did not distract from her well developed intellect or take anything away from her personality--write a note like that.
'To my one and only Valentine'
Finding and reading the little Valentine message between the pages of a random book, in some random bookshop in his town, had caused him physical pain. Specifically, a tightening of the muscles in an area in the chest, around the vicinity of his heart; which, he had thought, would account for the reason authors write about love as being an emotion originating in the heart. The physicality of the pain, which had started deep inside his stomach, had pulsated up his chest and had landed on some ventricular portion of his heart that had caused a choking feeling in the back of his throat. This had put him in a mournful mood.
Jason Marks mourned the fact that the heart-felt inscription had not been written on a more prominent part of the book; like the title page, where inscriptions of this type are often written; a place where the writing would stand out and grab the reader by the throat. This particular Valentine message had been written in a small piece of ruled paper. It showed signs of having been torn from a notebook, probably in a hurry, then tucked between the pages of the book for its reader to find, eventually.
Marks had detected another clue signifying that perhaps the writer of the note had been in a hurry to complete the task: the jagged edges of the tiny paper on which the Valentine note had been scribbled, were frayed on the longer side of the triangle it formed, telling that it had been carelessly torn from its whole. The whole of the writing seemed hurried, too. He had noted this by the way consonants pulled vowels with elongated, arm-like swishes, hurrying them along in a mad dash to the finish line. These signs, he’d figured, told the tale of a smitten admirer in a hurry to tear, to write, to quickly fold and hurriedly tuck a hard felt Valentine confession between the pages of the book being used by the admired.
Jason had suspected that either the intended subject never found the note or loved it so when found,
(the note and the sentiment) that the paper was left there for posterity, as a reminder of being worth someone’s love. Jason had been tickled and delighted to think that someone, in some distant past, had had the temerity, audacity, nerve, to actually sneak a note of such declaratory force between the pages of a book, that was obviously being used by the reader; with the knowledge that the reader would surely find the note, and in it, the declared sentiment.
Finding the note: “ to my one an only Valentine,” had touched Jason deeply, but the idea that perhaps the note was never found by its intended target had caused him an unrestrained sensation of grief. Jason Marks himself had missed that aspect of life. The aspect that was often the subject of so many of the books he’d read and loved: Love. Love had escaped Jason Marks in his sixty years of living. Love, the obvious sentiment in the Valentine note he'd found.
Finding this precious token inside a book made him wonder about the cosmic relevance of his life in relation to the love of two unknown individuals who may, or may not, have ever shared it.
He held the book in his hands and pressed it against his chest, oblivious of any eyeballs scrutinizing him. The pain he’d felt in his chest and had traveled slowly up his esophagus, had caused a knot to form in the back of his throat. He didn’t fight it. He did not want to fight it. He gave in. His eyes became moist until water involuntarily slithered down his cheeks. He was weeping. Touched by a sentiment that was not his own. Jason didn’t remember the last time he had had a reason for weeping. Crying over a fragment of paper stuck inside a book seemed silly. The lump in his throat had not cleared, even when tears had flooded his eyes.
A flood of regrets that had haunted Jason Marks surfaced to his mind. He’d always wanted someone to do a daring, caring deed, as silly as that of writing an anonymous Valentine. Or to whisper a sincere “I love you,” even if it was whispered into his deaf ear. He’d never had that happen to him, nor had he had the opportunity, or the audacity, to do something similar for someone he’d cared about. It was too late, he’d thought. His life had been filled with all the particulars of a regular life: the bills, the jobs, the colds, the headaches, the birthdays; but he’d never experienced the involuntary emotions of love. He’d been too practical to have fallen for that. Besides, he’d never known anyone that had felt so strongly about him to make a delightful gesture such as that of writing an anonymous Valentine.
Jason Mark’s eyes had finally cleared. They were dry and prickly as fallen leaves in Autumn. At last he was able to get past the sentiment the little note had sparked in him. He was now able to think practically and to focus on the reason why he’d picked up the book in the first place. He'd realized that he'd picked up the book because its subject was close to his heart: Writing. The Valentine note had been placed between pages 240 and 241 in a book about writers. He’d wondered whether the secret admirer had had a clear purpose in placing the note between those pages. Was there a secret message contained in those pages? Within a paragraph? Sentence? Word? Was there a coded message that was meant to be read and understood by the reader of the book? He could not know. He could speculate, but he knew he’d never know for sure. Jason Marks scanned pages 240 and 241, up and down. He followed each line, and heard each word with his eyes. Page 241 had and interesting passage that caught his attention:
INTERVIEWER: Is there a book you would like to write but haven’t?
ISHERWOOD: I’m not interested in writing something about now. Old age.....
Old age. He stopped reading there. Old age. Was that it? he thought. Was the note meat to reach someone’s aging spouse? He realized, then, that this was as close as he wanted to get in deciphering the note. He didn’t really like the idea of thinking about old age, which, for him, was a very difficult subject, and a source of deep anxiety. He closed the book without taking out the Valentine note. He figured it was absolutely necessary for the note to remain in its place, so that, perhaps, the person it had been intended to reach would some day find it. He felt deep in his heart that if the note had been meant for him, as part of some cosmic, universal omen, he would had found it sooner.
“To my one and only Valentine!” he read the note one last time, folded it, placed it back inside between pages 240 and 241, and shelved the book back between Nabokov’s ‘Laughter in the Dark” and “Like Life” by Lorrie Moore.
© Oswaldo Jimenez June 2012