He waited for this day each year.
He waited for it because he would walk the 87 steps to the corner of Arthur Avenue and make a right and cross the street, taking 347 steps to the newsstand. He would buy 14 quick picks and a pack of caramel swirl candies. He would buy the New York Post, The Times and El Diario (he didn't read Spanish but liked to think that he might at some point) and a Valentine's Day card.
He would go to the grocery store and buy the fixings for a Valentine's Dinner. Steak, potatoes, and asparagus. Something about asparagus said love to him. He would also get a Venetto cake for dessert.
He would walk the 51 steps from the frozen food aisle to the express checkout. The checkout girl had chipped black nail polish. That did not say love to him. She would abruptly take the $20 bill offered and put the change into his hand. He felt the scrape of her chipped polish nails and cringed inwardly.
He would walk the 434 steps back to his building and push for the elevator, making sure to cross the lobby twice while waiting, right foot over left, tapping his foot heel to toe seven times before entering the elevator.
Once on the 4th floor, he'd fumble for his keys and remember. His medication. He really should be more regular about taking it. He didn't want to end up back in the hospital. Nobody visited him there. Actually nobody visited him here. At least here, he'd have his Valentine's dinner and read the Valentines in the papers. He wasn't a desperado putting his love for all to see in a classified, he thought.
His love was gone forever - too bad they'd never met. He opened the card and wrote, Dear Maria...