Letters by Kenny Mah

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February 14, 2015

Hey you,

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day. My barista friend is panicking. He hasn’t figured out what to get his girl and time is running out.

He wants to take her to a nice restaurant, could I suggest one? Good ambiance, not too expensive, not French, please. I recommend this and that, but nothing’s quite right. Why not cook her dinner yourself, I say, something simple you can manage?

Mind you, it doesn’t have to be perfect; effort counts more than taste. She’ll be spending the rest of the evening staring into my friend’s eyes anyway. The two of them will be left alone instead of barely hearing each other speak in a room stuffed with other couples paying through their noses for a cookie-cutter Valentine’s Day menu and overpriced booze.

Get some tea-lights and line them across the room. Put them in glass containers, if he can find some; they make for lovely shadow play. Buy a packet of loose rose petals, those are cheap. Scatter them on the table and their perfume will make the meal more decadent. My friend will look thoughtful, classy, elegant.

Still, he wonders if he should get her chocolates or soft toys or something that says she’s special. Everyone gets those, I say. Chocolates will make her fat. Soft toys may give her nightmares. Take a nice piece of a paper, I say, and write her a letter. Remind her how you met and how far you’ve come. Share your dreams for the future, if you dare, I tell him.

How about a concert, my friend asks, or a romantic movie? Too noisy, too crowded, too cheesy, I say. You’ve got a guitar and a decent voice, haven’t you? Write her a song and sing it to her, to only her. She’ll melt, I promise. Money back guaranteed.

The florists are all out of flowers, he says, about to hyperventilate. Valentine’s Day bouquets can bankrupt you, I say, why waste your money? Head to your mother’s flower garden or sneak into the park. Pluck your own flowers and arrange them yourself. Sure, they won’t look pretty, but sincerity is charming. Learn from princes.

My friend thanks me and asks me what I’m doing for my Valentine’s Day. Nothing, I say, I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day nor does my husband. See, my darling, you and I have never been romantic, at least not in the once-a-year sort of way.

There are no rules: We’ll go for breakfast at our favorite kopitiam and we will run our errands. We’ll take a nap in the afternoon and we’ll read our books in the evening. Our friends will cook dinner for us and we’ll brew good coffee for them.

There is no Valentine’s Day, only an ordinary life day by day. We are so boring, I admit, unbelievably so. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yours always and always,

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