I am doing a lot of thinking about couples these days. I am watching how they act together. I am listening to how they talk about and to one another. I am looking at how they look at one another. I am curious about how they show that they understand the things that mean a lot to the other.
Yes, it is just a few days past Valentine’s Day. For the first time in close to thirty years I did not have someone on whom to lavish the attentions peculiar to the feast. No one to send a text message to before six in the morning. No one to expect flowers and a card from. Three men have sat across from me at different times during these thirty years for some sort of Valentine’s meal. There was no such meal this year.
I have been lucky, though. No denying that.
No denying, either, how my instincts warned me not to be sitting at home the evening of Valentine’s Day this year. I arranged to exchange one of my symphony tickets, and I was back in my favorite section of the first balcony in Symphony Hall on February 14.
By arriving in the hall early, I got settled in time to watch a couple locate their seats in the row directly in front of mine. Two men in their early thirties were wearing what looked like matching black blazers. Each had on a white dress shirt and a tie. They were sharp, each of them, and I daresay they knew it. They probably liked the way they looked together that Valentine’s evening, but the pleasure had little to do with anyone else’s noticing. Their demeanor said – but only to the other – “We’re doing pretty good, aren’t we? This kind of rightness is what it’s all about, and we’ve managed it this evening.”
Not burying their heads in the program notes for the concert about to begin, the two men kept turning to one another. One of them suddenly stopped and dug into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out an iPhone. He leaned his face next to his friend’s and then the two of them looked forward together, heads touching as they faced the camera phone.
What I witnessed, amazing to say, was something I had done myself in just those seats in 2010. It was the gala opening of the BSO season and I had gotten first balcony seats for myself and one of those three men who have shared a Valentine's meal with me. Before bass-baritone Bryn Terfel began the all-Wagner concert that September afternoon, my friend had pulled out his iPhone and taken our picture.
I was watching myself all over again last Thursday evening. Was this how we had looked, I wondered. Here again was that dizzying sense of a universe happy to see two people just where they wanted most to be, with the person they most wanted.
I watched the lights go down in the concert hall, listened to the applause as the conductor came on stage. I was caught up in music that had caught me up before.