Valentine’s Day in Sacramento

It's Saturday, but the 83 people gathered are dressed in their Sunday best. Speeches in Chinese. Grandpa Wu sits alone. The picture of his Valentine in the front of the room is surrounded by flowers. Out the window, I see floating above its broken tether a heart-shaped balloon.

Theresa and I drive across town with flowers in the back seat. Yesterday, under a somber sky, Dajan played a mournful tune on the harmonica and Grandpa Wu cried as the men shovelled. Today it's a beautiful California day and on the street corners vendors hawk flowers and heart-shaped balloons.

A large flat lawn. Fang Li, 1907-2002. A good run. Maria Menendez, 1961-1990. Oswaldo Lopez, 1983-1999. So young. A lone man of about 45 is on his knees and meticulously works his clippers, trimming the encroaching grass around a marker. A family of ten has lawn chairs and a picnic table. Children play chase. The field is covered with flowers and heart-shaped balloons.

At the Wang Center, in the elevator, I'm in my suit and Theresa in her dress. The woman in the corner has a gravelly voice and the stage whisper of someone who has had a few drinks. She sees how we are dressed. “I don't understand people who make so much of this holiday. I never really celebrated it. But maybe I would if I had a sweetheart to give me flowers and heart-shaped balloons.”