When I left for work on the morning of Valentine’s Day the postman had not yet delivered to my street, and I was able to deceive myself for a few more hours into thinking that I might return to find a red envelope or two in my mailbox. A year earlier I had just become a single occupant and moved into my new flat, a circumstance which I had used to convince myself was the reason why none of my suitors or secret admirers had been able to send a declaration of their love through the post, even if it didn’t necessarily tally with the previous thirty-three years of empty postboxes.
Although I did not receive a Valentine’s card in 2018, I did send my first one since whenever my last courtship ended. The recipient was the then red-haired barmaid, who became a formerly red-haired barmaid and who would later become a red-haired former barmaid. A few days prior to the event she jokingly suggested that I should send her a card, and because I am a man who rarely backs down from an opportunity to humiliate himself in front of the opposite sex, I took this as a challenge.
For days I was agonising over the literature I would use on the inside of the card, which was probably decorated with an animated teddy bear or a puppy or something which similarly suggested a tacky attempt at romance. I was searching for a verse which would be light-hearted enough to be in keeping with the joking nature of the endeavour, though with enough charm that the barmaid would be made aware that I had a favourable impression of her. Eventually, I settled on four lines which I wrote in my finest scrawl and felt confident captured the sentiment of the occasion.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
You pull a great pint
Can I pull you?
Satire and seduction proved not to make successful bedfellows, and like a bad meal, the card was spoken of once and never again.
The mailbox which is positioned on the wall outside my front door is immaculately white and looks like a house which was designed by a fabulously drunk and deeply flawed architect, with its long and thin streak of windows stretched across the eaves of the property and a small door which is no shape for any reasonable person to use as a point of entry. Most of the time it lies empty, but when I arrived home after work on Valentine’s Day I could see the pointed edge of an envelope protruding from the slot. A sense of intrigue captured me and I placed my bag of shopping between my ankles and reached for the key to open the box, feeling the way I would imagine a treasure hunter does when they happen upon a rare antique chest.
I opened the mailbox as far as the hinge would allow, studying the envelope forensically, more in hope rather than expectation, the way a dog watches intently as a sausage is being eaten. I took the large white envelope between my thumb and index finger and quickly became aware that it was a communication from the Bank of Scotland and that it was addressed to my neighbour across the landing. With my hope dashed, I fed the envelope through the letterbox on my neighbour’s door and accepted that at least someone would be having a more underwhelming Valentine’s experience than my own
The light in my kitchen had begun to flicker the previous evening, the way electrical fittings do in horror films when something ominous is about to occur. Within moments of it being turned on, it suddenly fell into a darkened obscurity, like an anticlimactic Valentine date, and I was left standing in a dim kitchen where the only light was provided from the floodlight in the yard behind the garden. I had just returned from the shop and felt certain that I wasn’t going to be the victim of a Saint Valentine’s Day massacre, so I decided that I could survive a night without a light in the kitchen. For a while, I was considering that I could inflame a few tealight candles and line them along the breakfast bar, though I dismissed the notion as being much too intimate for a solo dining experience where the only item on the menu was a frozen lasagne. Maybe if I had had the time to construct the dish from scratch I would have indulged in candlelight, but a single man eating a frozen lasagne on Valentine’s night was probably best kept in the dark.
After eating the second most tasteless lasagne meal I have had in recent times, I went out to Aulay’s to watch the football, where I believed that if I couldn’t spend the night with my beloved, I could at least enjoy it with beer lovers. I arrived at the bar prior to the game kicking off, armed with the knowledge that as well as being the patron saint of lovers and beekeepers, Saint Valentine is also the patron saint of plague and epileptics, which made spending the night amongst the unwell of a bar population seem fitting. The lounge was sparsely inhabited, six stems short of a dozen red roses, and the football was doing little to spread the love, the result only adding to the defeat of the day.
When I awoke in the harsh light of the following morning, I was reminded of my need to get a new lightbulb for the kitchen. In a bedraggled state, I was forced to iron a baby blue shirt in near darkness, though nobody commented that I looked any different from usual. In the evening I went shopping for the item I was needing which would allow me to eat reasonable meals and iron my shirts in a civilised manner. In the entranceway of Tesco was a display of flowers of various colours, some of them matching the palette of my own outfit. Next to the floral island of unwanted Valentine’s goods was a sign which was indicating that there was ‘75% off the marked price’ and it struck me how the existence of reduced roses and cheapened chrysanthemums was a lot like that of a single occupant in Argyll & Bute.