Illustration of a bouquet of pink flowers, with small note saying "I'm Sorry"

Seen 11:45 PM

Art by Beth O'Sullivan

February 14th, Valentine’s Day. It’s almost midnight. I come home after an evening out with friends. Our own little ‘Galentine’s, so that we do Valentine’s the right way by celebrating our friendship. So we ate, then got ice cream, then did some karaoke. A good time, all in all. 

I check my phone as I sit down in my room. I have several unread messages from my friend from back home. She seems kinda annoyed that I haven’t responded. 

“Hey sorry, I was out haha. What’s up?” 

“Ohhh with friends? Busy celebrating Valentine’s Day?” 

“With friends lol” 

“Does Valentine’s Day not ring a bell?” 

I frown at my screen, confused. Was I supposed to wish her a happy Valentine’s? Had we scheduled a video call for the 14th that I completely forgot about? 

It suddenly clicks, and I smack my forehead. Then, I smack it again, and a couple more times for good measure. In the panic of my epiphany, I had dropped my phone. I pick it back up and start typing frantically. 

“Oh my god. 

I’m an idiot. 

IM SO SORRY 

I LOVE U A LOT OKAY 

MY BRAIN IS JUST DUMB

HAPPY BIRTHDAY” 

I feel like the biggest, most heartless, most unforgivably callous fool in the world. She, thankfully, is graceful about it and responds with an “IKR 😂”. I promise to get her cake from Australia. She says it’ll do as an apology. 

We talk on the phone for a while. She sends me pictures of her chill, at home, (kind of) quarantine-friendly celebration with a handful of friends. As I browse through them, I feel a small sadness creeping in. It isn’t big, nothing too overwhelming. Just a breeze’s worth of melancholy. One that lingers instead of just blowing over. Cold enough to make me long for a sweater. It is a familiar feeling. 

As we keep talking, other friends come up. She tells me some of the things she knows about how their lives are going. I make mental notes of my negligence: several other birthdays forgotten, a wedding I couldn’t attend but should have sent my best wishes for, college acceptances and job placements that I definitely should have known more about. A long list that I must attach to an older, even longer one. At this point, it is probably long enough to stretch between India and Australia. Perhaps, I could lay it down and walk across the ocean on it. But I do not know if that would solve everything. It is easy to blame things on the kilometres between us but maybe the real distance is the one between thought and action. 

When our call ends, I pull out my post-it’s and mark some important dates on my calendar. I set reminders on my phone and send out a few messages. Tiny steps. Nowhere near enough to cross an ocean. But, if I take a few more, I will be a little further out, a little more under the sun. Perhaps it will be warmer there.