The aroma of baked pastries stirs the senses, and boxes of chocolate whet the palate. Coffee shops serve cappuccinos with hearts frothed to perfection just waiting to be touched by lips. Florists are reeling shades of pink and red ribbon around bouquets of roses that speak to love. Windows, lined with mannequins scantily dressed in lingerie tempt, provoke and invite the imagination to entertain thoughts of intimacy. Shades of red dominate the scene in malls, in stores and on the streets. Conversations of love, and hope of promises to be kept fill the air.
A man sits at a café table. His head hangs low, weighed down by weary eyes that stare meaninglessly at a frothed cup of coffee. The heart shaped foam, carefully designed by the barista means nothing, yet it is everything to him. If he takes a sip he could ruin the shape of the heart; he shakes his head remembering his heart, once perfect with the symmetry of love, and now torn and broken. He longs for the warm familiar touch of the one he loved. He takes a sip. It burns the lips. His memory holds on to what desire cannot hope to sustain. She is gone.
Somewhere a child is born. Coming out of the womb, he cries. He seeks the tender fluid love of the embryonic home that nurtured him. He gasps for air and cries for love. He is gently placed on his mother’s chest. She wraps her arms around him and both hearts beat as one. He is protected once again. He is home. The ruby red roses by the bedside do not do justice to the depth of this love.
She stands under the dimly lit street lamp wearing a tight red bustier. Her makeup is thick and her fashion is more mismatched adolescent; a desperate attempt to fight every last sign of aging as if to grasp at a fondly remembered youth. She hasn’t aged gracefully in this life. She eyes the man across the street, takes a long drag of her cigarette, and hoping to appeal to his sexual fantasy, she blows the smoke in his direction.
The girls gather in the schoolyard talking of plans for the weekend. Across the yard, at the top of the stairs, he stands with his friends. He looks toward her, smiles and his eyes meet hers for a few seconds longer than what seems normal. She is amused, tickled pink. She tilts her head, and with an ever so slight trill of her fingers she reveals the small heart shaped box of chocolate in her hand. With a coy nod, she returns her attention to the girls.
He stops at the baker to pick up his favorite chocolate filled croissant. He is running late, but his friend will not mind. Theirs is a friendship that goes back over 60 years. They are brothers in arms. They have stood side by side on the battlefields of life and fought side by side on the battlefield of borders. They have shared laughter and joy, pain and tears. They have earned their purple hearts. Their friendship does not question loyalty. They love as only true friends can.
He passes the florist, debates on the purchase of a box of chocolate, and goes to the coffee shop where he knows she comes for her noon break. He orders her favorite, a cappuccino, heavy on the foam. She passes the lingerie department, touches the silk nightgown and buys a cotton t-shirt instead. She is pressed for time. She bypasses the flowers, but stops to pick up a bar of his favorite milk chocolate. Somehow, she feels his presence as she has done on many occasions across a crowded room where his eyes have met hers and they’ve smiled telling the world they share a secret. They do. Their love of 40 years is beyond fantasy. It is a mature knowing. Once again, they spot each other.
The bishop kneels at the altar. He prays. He prays for the broken hearted. He prays for the sanctity of families; he prays for those who are lonely; he prays for friendship’s loyalty; he prays for the young; he prays for the old. He prays for soldiers and streetwalkers alike. The committed, the non-committed, mothers and fathers, children and adolescents, he prays for them all. His hand reaches up to the one he knows will love his heart unconditionally.
Cappuccinos and chocolates, conversations of love, and hearts that hope of promises to be kept fill the air. It is February.
(Segment of oil on canvas painting by Hrair from a private collection)