Tré was a young L.A. publicist when she fell in love with Alberto, a 30-something ad exec in Manhattan. They married on their eighth date and began an adventure that was, uh, interrupted when she found him dead of a heart attack four years later. With a drink in one hand and a blog in the other, Tré proceeded to face her grief the new-fashioned way.
In this exclusive excerpt from her forthcoming book, Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir, Tré stares down her first Valentine’s Day as a widow—then picks up a pair of scissors and reinvents it.
On the May night I met Alberto, I’d confessed to him that 2005 was my first year without a valentine—and I was still bitter about it. A few weeks later, he flew me from L.A. to New York for our second date and a huge bouquet of red roses was staged in his living room. A handwritten card had asked me to be his valentine.
We were married three months later, and on our first February 14th, I discovered that Alberto didn’t actually subscribe to Valentine’s Day.
I don’t need Hallmark telling me when to say ‘I love you,’ he had scoffed.
Everyone in his office, as well as most people I encountered in New York City, shared his hostility toward the holiday.
Must be an East Coast thing, I thought, and sent an arrangement to his office with a gag card that was two feet tall. Alberto was mildly amused but didn’t reciprocate.
The following year I scheduled his flowers to arrive on February 13th, along with a card asking him to be my anti-valentine. He did not acknowledge the gesture. The last two years, I skipped flowers and just sent love notes to the office without any expectation.
On Valentine’s Day 2009, we had morning sex, read the Times in bed and he asked if I’d be into the Calder exhibit at the Whitney?
Hells to the yeah.
After an hour or so among the whimsy that is Alexander Calder, we headed to La Esquina for brunch and back home for an on-demand movie.
(When this is your Saturday, who needs Hallmark?)
Since my anti-valentine is missing this year, I’ve been invited to no shortage of Lonely Heart parties tonight. But between now and then are eight hours of meltdown opportunities, so I decide to distract myself by making valentines for New York City.
I flip through all the magazines I’ve ignored this year and use a heart-shaped candy box as a pattern trace. With Alberto’s bitten-on Sharpie, I write words like Remember and YES and give it away. My best gay meets me downstairs and we set out to graffiti-heart lampposts, walls and trees in front of places that hold meaning for me. The throngs of post-brunch, handholding couples don’t sting as sharply with a gay at your side and paper hearts in your hand.
A year from this 2010 moment, I will be hosting a graffiti-heart party for a dah of girlfriends. My guests won’t know that it’s the first official party in the apartment since Alberto died, and by Valentine’s Eve, I will have shoved clutter in cabinets, set up a mimosa bar and prepped appetizers.
One of the last things on my To-Do List will be to make a dozen valentines: my hosting duties won’t give me much hearts-and-crafts time tomorrow. I dip into the pile of magazines that my girlfriends will be cutting up and find the “Reasons to Love New York” issue of New York magazine to be a gold mine. By the time I reach the back cover, I’ve made 15 heart shapes.
I’m about to toss it in the recycling bin when I see the crossword puzzle: every blank square is filled with my handwriting. I pause to appreciate its messy completion and notice the handwriting in the margins.
I scan the date on the puzzle (February 2, 2009) before visually devouring his distinctive slant and stored trivia.
Words like “Rikers” and “Eero” are in his hand and they are why this puzzle is completed. When I see the word “aorta” in his handwriting, I can’t stop myself from reading the clue.
Alberto’s own aorta was attached to the organ that would fail him 41 days after Feb. 2, 2009.
I stop reading and close the magazine.
But I don’t recycle it.
Couldn’t have finished it without him.
A slightly dented widow in a party dress, Tré is the Tumblr voice behind White Elephant In The Room and the forthcoming book, Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir. Tré lives and overshares in New York City and on Twitter @tremillernyc
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