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When we think of classical music and love — that is, love of the romantic variety — our thoughts tend to go in one of two directions. The sound of Debussyian strings may be conjured inside the head, all spangled and awash in the excitement of being with the person one most cares about. Or else things can get a touch Beethoven-y. Which is to say, heavy. Minor keys, crashing chords raining down needle-like from on high, like one has been smote through the heart — not by an arrow courtesy of Cupid, but by the pain of loss. Or, worse, the pain of wasted opportunities. More… “Heart Vibrato”

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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I’d like to dedicate this very special Valentine’s song to my mother, he tells the audience. Her favorite composer is Frederic Chopin. I’d like to play this, he says, for all the mothers here, and all the mothers tuned in at home.

 

He’s dressed as a man should be dressed on Valentine’s Day, if the man is playing piano for his mother, and is Liberace: red bow tie, red vest and slacks, black jacket studded with rhinestones, ruffled shirt. Behind him, the signature candelabra on the piano, a prop idea he got from an old movie about Chopin. He takes a seat at the piano, and in his liquid way, draws a melody up out of the keys. He begins with Chopin as promised, but it’s no jumpy polonaise, no mincing waltz. Liberace starts with “Étude Op. 10,… More…

I missed the moment when shop window displays changed from Santa red to sexy scarlet:  a fabulous froth of lace and slinky silken negligees. Most of the neighborhood still has Christmas lights up, but all the stores are pushing Valentine’s Day. In spite of the omnipresent window displays and advertisements, I’ll bet millions of men will forget Valentine’s Day. It could be chromosomal. Or maybe forgetting is a pose, a form of resistance. If men looked at Valentine’s Day like a second Halloween, it might be more fun.

 

That’s what I’ve decided to do, and it works for me.

Why not? After all, stores are filled with candy, and, while it’s not exactly the same as trick-or-treat, with a little imagination the evening of February 14 can be perked up to the next level with costumes. Just try… More…

 

I’m unbearably lonely. Can you help? — John B., Chicago, Illinois Well, you’re in good company: It’s cold outside, and the only thing this last Valentine’s Day did for those without a partner is jab little daggers into their hearts.

But aren’t we all lonely, really, in our little worlds, with each click of the keyboard, with each thought that goes unexpressed? No matter how big our mental space, no matter how peopled our social sphere, no matter what kind of a romantic partner we have — real or imagined, we are all lonely for a majority of the day. We are in that space between the ears, dreaming, waking, drinking coffee, passively reading the latest news, and not engaged in a verbal, physical, or spiritual exchange with someone else. Maybe Stephen Dunn’s poem “Loneliness” will help you:

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