The store is not open yet. A truck is parked on the sidewalk outside. Men with armloads of flowers are shoving through the doors, half-sliding across the muddy tiles. I jump in between them and stand with my hands in my pockets. The room stinks of roses and lilies, like cheap perfume. Women in sweaters wear long faces. I try to get their attention. They ignore me, walking in and out of little rooms, their hands empty.
At one point, an old woman wearing half-glasses asks me what I want. I point at some yellow flowers that are not peonies, but something like peonies. Then some purple ones. Four and three, I say. She wraps them in silence, in simple paper. I pay her and she gives me the wrong change - too much. I give it back and her eyebrows are raised. Her face lights up a little. I tell her it will be a long day. I tell her it smells wonderful in the little store.
Walking through the frozen park, passing playgrounds submerged in dirty snow I think of Misha's gift, the crystal plate for chocolate cakes. I think of my friends in jackets in my old kitchen on 1st Street, throwing back shots of cognac before nine in the morning and then taking the cab down to city hall.
No, that was someone else's life.
I am not the man that got married on Valentine's Day. Not any more.
Inside, I pull my boots off quietly. I slide into bed next to N, kiss her ears.
"Happy Valentine's Day." I whisper to her.
She smiles, her eyes still closed.
The paper rustles.
She reaches, squeezing the little bouquet.
Somehow it falls off the side of the bed.
"Oy!" She says, suddenly awake, reaching for them, pulling them carefully back to her pillow.
I make some home fries, scrambled eggs. The patter of the shower, and N brushing her teeth are the only sounds. The flowers are in a vase now, in the center of the kitchen table.
The day passes in silence. I work without listening to music, taking breaks to cube some fresh pumpkin and start it roasting slowly in the oven. Squeezing fresh lemons and blood oranges, I cook down half of the juice with some Russian honey. Mixing them together, they go into the freezer in a metal bowl. It will be sorbet in a few hours. I make a mound of semolina flour on the kitchen table, crack eggs in the center, add a splash of good olive oil and knead the dough. The house smells warm.
I get E from school. She has a message scribbled on a heart to show me. We sit at the kitchen table, as I roll out the pasta into crooked sheets, cutting them into squares. She drops tiny spoonfuls of the pumpkin in their centers, sticking her finger in her mouth to taste them. A plate fills with the tortellini, their points looking like funny hats.
This is what I will remember next year.