I’m writing to you at midnight on a Wednesday. January 30 to be precise. There’s a polar vortex rampaging through the northern half of the United States. That means my heat is turned on, I’m wearing my favorite pair of fuzzy socks, I have hot chocolate and my rabbit on my lap while I binge murder mysteries.
But my neck is stiff and my stomach is all in knots. I’m anxious. I don’t know why, but at the same time, I do know why. The confusion just makes my head hurt which makes me even more anxious. So I decide to write. Maybe that will help? But first, I need to turn my heat up. This drafty old hospital building-turned-apartment is drafty. So, now that I’m sitting at my laptop with a blank Google Doc in front of me, I’m forced to put my feelings into words as best as I can. And I know what it is.
Yes, I have friends and family who care deeply for me, but right now I have no one to talk to. They are all asleep, busy or with someone they love. There have been a lot of things leading up to tonight. For starters, every store in America right now is decked out in pink hearts, glitter and lace. All my friends are either planning their gifts or finding someone to get one for. And that means I’m left in my apartment most nights with a phone that doesn’t buzz and no one around to see in person.
“Liz, everyone hates being single this time of year. Shut up.”
I know, but not everyone has been single every year. I was bullied severely during school, and I’ve endured some pretty abusive friendships just because they were all I had. Those experiences really ruined my ability to open up to people I don’t know very well. I have a hard enough time making friends, but the vulnerability you need to have for a relationship? I can’t give it. I can’t even fathom the idea. I’ve been asked out, I’ve gone on dates and many of them have lead to me being offered a second one… but I can never say yes. Even though I want to. I thought that at least going on a first date would boost my confidence. I thought it would be enough to know that people could be interested in me. Maybe so I could say the reason I’m always single is because I want to be.
One of my least favorite memories in school was when the girl’s track team would sell roses the week of Valentine’s Day to have delivered to someone later in the week during homeroom. I dreaded delivery day because, for six years, I would be the only girl in the classroom who never got a rose. I’m not exaggerating. Some girls’ parents even bought them roses if they knew no one else would. My parents didn’t because I didn’t ask them to. I didn’t want them to know it bothered me because they prided themselves on raising independent women in my sister and me. But senior year, I wasn’t skipped over. I received a rose. My homeroom teacher, who had seen me get ignored each year since freshman year, bought me a rose and wrote a little note attached to the stem that I still remember.
“Chin up. You’re doing great.”
That was the last time I got anything for Valentine’s Day, but it wasn’t the first. My grandfather used to get my sister and I each a small, cheap box of Russel Stover chocolates every year, usually a heart-shaped box with cartoons or Disney characters. The last one he got me had Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird. It meant even more because of how sick he was. I didn’t expect or even hope he would continue the tradition that final year. With my grandmother’s help, he handed my sister and I the small boxes while he was laying on the couch and thanked us for being his valentines again that year.
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My sister, who was still young, ran off to eat her candy. But I stood there, staring at my box. I knew it would be the last one, and I was afraid to open it. My grandfather smiled at me the best he could and said,
“Go ahead and open it, Rosebud. It won’t be the last one you’ll ever get, and I want to see you eat it.”
And I did, holding back tears because I could already feel how much I would miss him.
Now, as I type this, I’m still crying because I still miss him. But I’m also crying because I’m scared he was wrong. I’m scared that even if someone wanted to buy me chocolates, my anxiety wouldn’t allow it. My inability to love myself and the disbelief that someone could feel differently wouldn’t allow it.
I’m scared I’ve already gotten my last box of chocolates.