For our first Valentine's Day you made me a book. It's in a large spiral with a sturdy front and back. You usually used a lot office supplies from the temp jobs you had back then to make me these. So it has that signature quality of office supplies, as well as your child-like tone that I fell in love with throughout.
On the front is a white office label that says in your print (you never learned how to write cursive) "For Julia "The Best" Pirritano. From "Mucho Macho" Dan Cho."
On every page is something different- a drawing by you, stickers, photographs of you as a little boy or in college, photos of us, bus schedules and other reminders of our first dates. But your theme, as you state on the pages you labeled "Introduction" was "Why should Daniel H. Cho be your Valentine? WHY?"
A few excerpts (because I know you wouldn't feel comfortable with me sharing all of it- after all it was eleven years ago and you've changed quite a bit):
On a page with a photo of us in Central Park- "Before our first visit to the beautiful Central Park, I never liked the city. Before, I only saw the dark streets, dirty subways, rude people...the negative things of NYC. Now that I think about it, I hated this place with a passion. But all it took was an unplanned visit to CP with you. You possess this ability to make things around you beautiful. CP that day soon turned into a magical place...Trees never looked so pretty like that, the violet sky caused by the sunset looked like a Monet painting, and the green fountain water was somehow nice to look at. Thanks to you."
On another page that begins, "The book officially starts now! Not too long ago, in my Christmas book for you, I wrote mostly about you. About how awesome and great you are. About how intelligent, gentle and kind, devoted, funny, cool, beautiful, amazing and intoxicating you really are. Yaw, that was a pretty good book. I could write a book about you everyday...the length of War and Peace. Yay. But enough about you...hahaha...In this book I want to talk about myself. Yay. Actually, I want to explain why I should be your Valentine...now and forever...hopefully...this way you'll get to know me better. I want to write the reason I think I'm the "Man of your life," possibly. I think I'm a pretty good guy and have a lot to offer. So, this Valentine's day is gonna be all about me. Hahaha.
In the pages that follow, you go on to say you're a friend to animals, have lots of friends, and you're a smooth talker. For the smooth talker quality you included a white index card with "notes" from a phone conversation we'd recently had back then- as if you'd been using it to talk to me. The subject matter on the notecard actually made me smile just now..."Yeah, Julia...I agree. Most kids are cute and adorable. But that kid from the Welch's juice commercial is annoying as heck!" We actually had a conversation like that. You couldn't stand that little girl.
The book goes on to tell me you're good at directions, take me to cool places, and write songs for me. All true.
A photo of us on the Staten Island ferry when we had just started holding hands. "It's been fun and amazing, really...you are truly amazing. You make me happy and strong at the same time. No one else has done this to me before. Thank you for the incredible journey and I'm looking forward to more."
The last page has an envelope pasted on it and inside it asks the question, "So sweet you, my favorite person...will you be my Valentine?
The back of the book has one more photo of us sitting at the fountain at Lincoln Center at night. Underneath it you wrote:
Julia & Dan
...Best Friends Forever..."
I can still remember I couldn't contain myself and had to show my mom this book you made me when I got home that night. I think she said something like, "Wow, he really likes you..."
Thank you Daniel...for loving me. If Valentine's Day has been difficult it's because for many years I wanted someone to love me the way you did...
And you loved me very, very well.
So I was loved...and now I am not. Different kinds of love...but not that kind.
and what is it to be loved? I always said Dostoevsky put it best, "To love is to see someone as they're intended to be." Thank you for seeing that me...I will try to become her more and more each day...
to honor you.
Because you are my "best friend forever", and as you put it: "the man of my life."