One February day, as a writer for the Guardian in England, I went to a workshop that, among other things, made greetings cards: birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas etc. and watched as an unending stream of Valentine cards poured out saying “Just for you, darling.”
I wondered at the time if cockney Romeos might be buying up a dozen or so at a time scattering them to addresses all over London. Given the cost, however, and the time spent buying stamps, licking envelopes, walking to the mailbox, etc., the number of recipients would necessarily be finite for even the most ardent suitor.
Not so in our brave technological age. Which is how I met Sarah. “Met,” you understand, is what today’s parlance means “didn’t meet.”
To elaborate: a year or so ago an email from a new name, Sarah, arrived saying, “Why haven’t I heard from you?”
Now I’m as romantically inclined as any other 90-year-old. I’m also willing to believe that in affairs of the heart miracles are not just possible but indispensable. But, try as I might, I couldn’t think of any Sarah who might be wasting away because of my coldness so, remembering what my mother told me, I didn’t reply.
A few days later another email came, this one saying “I’m so disappointed at not hearing from you.” Could Mom have been wrong? I wondered. After all, what could she know about love? But, though unable to shake off a feeling that I might be throwing away the key to Paradise, I still kept mom (so to speak.)
A week or so passed and Sarah, her heart breaking, wrote again, sounding as though she was in a mood to end it all. But even now, hating my flinty heart — though at the same time feeling a little glow of pleasure that I could still cause so much damage in a maiden’s breast — I maintained a silence such as a sphinx would not have believed. Yet Sarah, gamely carrying on, now writes almost every day.
In fact, our courtship has now gone on so long that she is beginning to repeat some of what I had assumed was an infinite store of messages. Just this week I received one reading “Why haven’t I heard from you?” which is where we started.
I see no way I can break my silence now. I’m too afraid that if I met the real Sarah — probably unattractive and, of course, male — and gave her my debit card password to help out her paraplegic mother in Zambia it is my heart that would break.