Once, on an icy winter night, I saw a girl on the College streetcar with a big heart-shaped box of chocolates on her lap.
It was a week after Valentine’s day. She was at the very front of the streetcar, and that box straddled her crotch, and her spread-out legs. I can still remember what she looked like: pale face, long black hair, heavy eye makeup. Black leather jacket, a plaid skirt and tights. She was eating the chocolates one by one, slowly, dreamily, and rather sullenly, too, I thought. Did she buy them for herself, on sale, at Shoppers Drugmart? Did someone give them to her, and was that person now long gone? I’ was alone that Valentines, had gotten through it stoically. The girl with the heart shaped box on her lap was all I needed to turn the corner on a crappy week: her soulful performance was a valentine just for me.
One Valentine’s Day, when I lived in Montreal, my upstairs neighbour Ormand invited my friend Sheena and myself for dinner. It so happened that all three of us were involuntarily single at the time. The plan was to drink several gin martinis amid the opulence of Ormand’s over-stuffed apartment, eat his shrimp curry, complain about ex-lovers, and make disparaging comments about relationships in general. Sheena knew this could only end in tears. So she brought over a chocolate layer cake festooned with our names, with hearts, and symbols of queerness – triangles and entwined women’s and entwined men’s symbols. It wasn’t just a cake, it was a political statement. That cake transformed our bitterness. We toasted to friendship several times that night, to passionate queer friendship that, as we drunkenly affirmed, outlasts every affair and one-night stand.
Valentines Day can be romantic, or it can be like being outside in the cold, looking through the window at a party. It can be raunchy, or it can be ironic. It can be an opportunity to make a cake for your friends, or a chance to look at love in a new way. It can remind you to buy flowers for yourself, to make up with someone, or buy some chocolates at a drugstore. It’s a girl in a streetcar, with her heart on her lap, moving forward, willfully.