The Things We Do For Love

Sunday is Valentine’s Day, so let me direct your attention to a song called “The Things We Do for Love.”  It was written in the 1970s, and it’s woefully inadequate.  In fact, it’s crap!  The truth is, if you’re doing it right, when you’re in love, you do extraordinary things that all seem perfectly ordinary — and all that ordinary stuff adds up to make lovers feel special.  Let me give you a few examples.

Walking in the rain with a single rose under your coat — when you kinda/almost/nearly forgot the anniversary — because you know she prefers romantic and on time to expensive and a day late.

Suddenly developing an interest in football — just in time for the championship game.

Holding her hair during the sudden tequila volcano that erupted halfway through her brother’s wedding reception — and vaguely wondering what the penalty is for getting caught in the women’s toilet at the Hyatt Regency.

Watching that same stupid movie every year — even though it’s not a Christmas movie and … “Oh for God’s sake!  How many times do you need to shoot him?  Die already!”

Watching that same dumbass movie every Christmas — even though nobody in their right mind would ever mistake Hugh Grant for sexy.

Leaving the last brownie — just because.

Knowing how to shut up and listen when someone’s had a bad day at work.

Hiding chocolate in the tampons box when “we” are on a diet.

Not stealing the chocolate she hid in the tampons box when “we” are on a diet.

Laughing in all the right places of the same story he told at the last dinner party.

Telling the same story over and over again because she thinks it’s funny.

Spending an entire Saturday afternoon going to every store on the planet to find those disgusting frozen burritos that taste like wallpaper paste – just because he likes them.

Dragging the heaviest suitcase in history across two international borders, through three airports, over miles of cobblestones and up four flights of stairs because “I’m not going all the way to Europe looking like a tramp!”

Taking tons of extra stuff (he’s definitely going to want) to Europe — because his suitcase is the size of Rihanna’s evening bag.

Ignoring bodily noises.

Spending a whole weekend watching crap TV, even though the final episode of Season One and the first episode of Season Two are just sitting there, waiting for someone to watch them — but somebody isn’t going to be home until Monday, and you promised not to peek.

Any bikini wax.

Stopping whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re doing it, to hunt for the exact spot under the bra strap where it itches.

Enduring the Just-Got-Into-Bed cold feet on your … “OMG, lady!  You need to see a doctor!  No human being can be that cold and still be alive.”

And finally:

Ruining your dress, dancing in the rain.

Ruining her lipstick, not her mascara.

Fiction — Valentine’s Day


Sylvia looked at the moon, a smudged coin disappearing in a cloudy sky.  It would rain soon, probably before morning.  That didn’t matter: she planned to be safe in bed by then.  Tomorrow night, she was going north, but tonight – tonight was hers.  Tonight was an ice-cubed whiskey in a heavy glass.  The fish?  No, the beef — with scallops to start and a wine so red it turned black on her tongue.  Then coffee and honey-wet pastry, sticky and sweet, and a hotel bedroom key.  It was a night of boat neck shoulders, cuff length sleeves and a tight walk hemline.  It was a night of long jewelry earrings that touched her throat, a dancing emerald ring and tall heels.  It was a night that men and their women noticed her when she walked in, watched her sit down and wondered who she was there for.  It was a night of little tongue candles that made licking shadows.  A night of dim shaded faces and intimate reflections.  It was a night of eyelashes and lipstick and deep silver fingernails.  It was a night breathing with seduction.

Once, a few years ago, when she was much younger, she’d brought a man to a night like this.  He was a handsome European with diplomatic immunity and a coming career.  He spent the evening trying to recruit her into his bed, like a qualified negotiator.  The evening faded and finished, and Sylvia walked away.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later when Sylvia didn’t call, he came looking for her and ended up meeting Mirac in an underground carpark.  Since then, Sylvia kept these nights to herself.

On the other side of the moon, Karga was reading a bedtime story to his two sons, Mustafa and Taavi.  It was a tale of a reluctant thief and a clever slave girl, Morgiana, who made him rich.  He read parts in English so his boys would get to know the words.  And when he was done, he went downstairs, drank tea with his wife and waited for the rain.

Sylvia raised her glass to where the moon should have been.  And all alone in a crowded restaurant, she touched her lips to the cold glass, drank, and waited for the warmth of the whiskey.

Valentine’s Day — Fiction


On the first night, they blew out the candles and whispered in the suspicious darkness like spies unravelling their secrets.  The tip-wary waiters kept their distance.  And only a lipstick line on a brandy glass betrayed that they were ever there.  Eventually, there was a cloud-careful moon and a long walk through the hotel-crowded streets smooth with the forgotten footsteps of long ago lovers.

On the second night, they found the river, simmering black with dancing silver ridges — so they hid on the balcony and wondered if anyone would find them.  No one did.  And then, when they had nothing left to say, their shadows leaned forward and undressed them, caressed them and covered them so completely with the night that only their breathing remained.

On the third day, they slept deep into the sun, and folded into the bedsheets and their newspapers, they drank coffee and had breakfast and spilled the orange juice.  They walked past the museums and found a few tales of conflicting folklore from the market merchants who had stories to tell.  Then, as the afternoon slipped into evening, they wandered and wined their way back to the hotel for late night shrimp and avocados.

On the fourth morning, they picked up their telephones from the hotel safe, and when the taxi driver asked them about their luggage, they just shrugged.  At the airport, they phoned the kids to come get them because — after 20 years of Valentine’s Day weekends — Mr. and Mrs. Cooper were not foolish enough to pay for airport parking.