My valentine has the remnants of a chocolate heart on his face. At recess, he comes out of his classroom behind the others, and he stands there for a minute, between the outdoor corridor and the mulched rubber of the play yard, looking around him. The swings are taken. The field is closed off, eliminating soccer. He thinks he’s too short for the basketball game with the older kids.
He sees me and he beams. He lets me quickly wipe the chocolate off his face. He says he wants a school snack just like that every day. I say just this one time, for Valentine’s Day.
I ask about his friends. He looks out over the playground again, trying to find them under the shine of a sun that feels like spring, but he doesn’t try very hard. I ask if they’re on the monkey bars? Maybe. Or is that them in the tetherball line? He looks and then looks away. Finally, he says they’re not friends with him today. He doesn’t need to say he doesn’t know why. It’s all over his face, transparent in the bright light. I see his chest rise under his coat as he takes a breath. He’ll be ok. He’s glad I’m here. There’s still a faint smudge of chocolate on his cheek.
I resist the urge to fuss over it. He’ll be fine. Probably by this afternoon. But he’s not this morning, alone on Valentine’s Day.