Single on Valentine’s Day. A position I literally have never been in before. “So” I wondered to myself, “what DOES one do on this, the day that’s not only specifically for those who have mates, but practically screams in laughter and points its finger at those of us who don’t?” After carefully weighing my options (go to the movies alone/ Stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head/ Stick my head in the oven – oh shit, it’s electric, never mind) I hit upon the ideal solution: Road trip!
In my opinion, a solitary road trip with the tunes cranked up, Pepsi Max in hand and full pack of cigarettes at the ready not only kills a lot of time, it restores a girl’s confidence in herself. My destination: Paxico, Kansas, population 208. There are almost as many antique shops there as are there are residents in Paxico and rumor has it that there’ll be a Meatloak cook-off in June! Whoo hoo!! So at 11:00am on Saturday I gassed up the Focusmobile and pointed her west for a day of driving, smoking and shopping.
I hit the turnpike, set the cruise at 75, and headed smack into Kansas, a state that’s never failed to depress the hell out of me. Maybe it was the fact that previous visits to Kansas were obligatory, thus my tendency to sense only despair and desolation when faced with miles and miles of prairie, but this time I felt optimistic, my earlier depression fading away with each passing mile. Maybe it was my favorite driving CD (Dada’s Puzzle), cranked up to maximum volume that lifted my spirits (because the very first song, Dorina, kicks ass every time and then it just gets better from there) or maybe it was the healthful, healing powers of the ginseng in my Pepsi Max. Whatever the reason, I began to feel empowered and excited and tingly all over.
Just outside of Topeka, the Flint Hills appear. Because of the chert, the land sucks for growing crops but cattle ranching is all the rage. In the spring, if you drive happen to be driving through on a relatively windless day or night; you might drive smack into a controlled range burn. I got to see a major range burn at night several years ago and it was a spectacular sight.
After stopping for a quick bite to eat on the interstate, I reached Paxico at 12:30. The town is so small, it’s impossible NOT to drive right to the main district section. I parked the Focusmobile and proceeded to hit practically every antique store and junk shop that was open. I’ll spare you the details of my purchases, only to say that I found a Catholic school version of a Dick & Jane reader for four bucks and a kick-ass Lawrence Welk ashtray. Score! Many Observant-friendly finds made their way into my possession that day. I stopped in at the local cafe for an iced tea, mentioned to the female cashier that I was sans Valentine, (so was she! I am not alone in the world!) and we had a nice girl-to-girl talk about the advantages that having one’s options open afforded us.
The afternoon was waning, so I fired up my fuel-efficient vehicle and headed west, back to my sublimely empty house. Once home, I unpacked my belongings, placing the LW ashtray with my increasing collection of vintage smoking accessories, and noted that it was almost dusk.
I had just one more important task to complete today.
I set about collecting fire-making supplies and the stash of cards and love letters from my ex-lover. Everything he’d written to me during our ten-year run had been kept lovingly in a carved box and stored with my most special possessions. And now it was time for their ceremonial burning – the last vestige of our relationship together was due to go up in smoke on this, the Day of Lovers, in just a matter of minutes.
The sky was deep purple as I fed the tinder into the fire pit. The fire burned slowly at first until I touched the first card to the flame. Damn, paper makes a dandy starter! The flames jumped higher as I fed more of the missives and declarations of love into the pit. Words that once held meaning were reduced to ashes, and the flames licked at them greedily, as eager as I was to cremate it all.
I watched the fire consume this mound of paper, then found myself whistling a little tune that’d been dancing around my head all day:
“Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame.
You give love a bad name.”
Ah, Bon Jovi. You’re a genius.
It was full dark when I finished. I put out my fire, walked into my house and closed the door – Valentine’s Day was officially over.