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by Linda Spear
Remember the times when Kahlil Jibran’s, “The Prophet” was the most popular book among college students? One copy of The Prophet got past around our dormitory like a hot potato because most of us didn’t have the money to buy it for ourselves. I don’t even know the girl who actually owned it. But one Valentine Day, I decided to spend the precious amount of money on the book to give to my love—the only man I ever loved with such passion for the rest of my life, and make notes on the sides of the underlined passages that meant so much to me. It took me weeks to prepare the book to my liking, to present to my love. I tried to keep my work hidden from him as we studied together in the evening.
We had been living together for almost a year, and although I was supposed to reside in a dormitory, I was actually staying with him and paying half the rent with money I received from my “work/study program,” that gave me living expenses, on campus, anywhere, for 20 hours of work a week.
If my parents happened to call, my so-called roommate told them I was in the shower or at the library, and she’d immediately call me at his apartment so I would return their call. It went on that way for almost two years, as we nurtured and cradled our passion for each other through work, study and concocted recipes for meals made with cheap ingredients. It was paradise.
I had to wrap the book and hide it from him until the day came. I used red tissue paper, garnered from a friend and taped it shut, and I deftly worked it so that the cover of the book didn’t show through the thin wrap.
And then I waited until the special day came.
We both went to classes—he in medical school, me in college and when I returned to the apartment, I found the easily recognizable rectangular box for flowers, waiting for me. Careful to open the ribbon, in order to save it, I worked my way to the moment that I could lift the lid.
There I found beautiful deep red roses; twelve in all. And then I read the note: “I love you, nose and all.”
It was as if lightening struck from above. The beauty of the roses and the joy in the moment disappeared. He always said he loved me but, oftentimes, he’d tell me my nose was too big. Just a joke, of course, but did he need to say it on paper, on Valentine’s Day?
I cried the very first time he told me, months before and thought by then, he knew that words like that hurt, but there, lying on the flowers, were his sentiments that stung beyond belief.
Of course, one can understand why we only lasted two years, but my nose was not the reason we separated. It very well could have been if I didn’t love him far too much to leave.
The breakup had far deeper roots and the pain of what I endured from his spineless behavior lasted a lifetime. Now that we have both been married for so very long to other people, the pain of what he said and did in that couple of years together, sometimes comes back to taunt me. In fact, I wrote a book about it. And it’s selling well because so many people can relate to a relationship of this sort.
In the years since, after I married the man who loved me more than life itself, I have received roses from him that are accompanied by notes that always end with “I will love you forever.” And he has. He never references my nose. I don’t think he ever noticed.